Whale research from a scientist’s perspective

Dr Ari Friedlaender form California Ocean Alliance explains his latest research on minke whales in Antarctica:

“Tagging a whale is an amazing event.  It is fleeting, adrenaline-filled, overwhelming, and humbling.  But as anyone who has done it before will tell you, it is the very last moment of a long series of events that have conspired and aligned perfectly to allow you to be in that exact place, at that precise time, with that equipment, when that animal allows you to get that close.  Long story short, it doesn’t happen by accident.  And while one moment like that can have a huge impact on our knowledge and understanding of a species or ecosystem, it is the long-haul, the repeated measures, the sample size that provides rigor to our findings and allows us to use science to educate, inform, conserve, and protect the animals and ecosystems that we care so much about.

One Ocean Expeditions has made a commitment to supporting science; whale science, penguin research, micro-plastic investigations for the long-haul, for the purpose of understanding the impacts that we as humans have on our planet so that we can do something about it.  This takes time, resources, support, dedication, commitment, and a belief that is pervasive throughout the entire organization.  Without this singular focus, we could not succeed, we could not learn, and we could not protect places like the Antarctic.  These shared values between One Ocean Expeditions and our research group at the California Ocean Alliance make for a potent and effective collaboration.

The logistical support that One Ocean Expeditions provides for us to conduct our whale tagging work throughout the Antarctic summer and across years has allowed us to shed light on the lives of whales in new ways.  The most recent example of this occurred recently when we deployed the first ever video recording tag on an Antarctic minke whale, the most elusive and cryptic whale species I have ever worked with.  It took us many trips over many years to finally get this opportunity, and One Ocean Expeditions put us in the position to take advantage of it.  We have cracked the door open now to peer into the lives of these whales so that we can understand them and protect the places they call home and the resources they need to thrive in a rapidly changing environment.

Over the past 4 years together in collaboration with the Australian Antarctic Division, we have deployed more satellite tags on Antarctic minke whales than any other research group in the world.  The information we have learned from these tags is allowing us to better manage the way that krill are harvested in the Antarctic, to ensure enough exists to support the whale community that relies on it.

I am so proud to be able to work with a company and with people who share the same values of scientific research, conservation, and education. One Ocean Expeditions and the California Ocean Alliance have a partnership that should be a model example of how platforms of opportunity can be used to conduct rigorous and critical conservation science around the world.  In a time where funding for large research programs that include significant logistical support is becoming more scarce, we are even more reliant on collaboration between like-minded organizations that can work together to achieve common goals.

It’s amazing to think about the amount of time, effort, resources, and energy from so many passionate people that aligned so perfectly to put us in that place at that time with that opportunity to tag that one whale.  I feel so fortunate to have been the last person in that line with my hands on the tag pole putting the cherry on top of this massive sundae.”

Join Ari Friedlaender on his next expedition cruise to Antarctica. Talk to your travel agent or contact us to learn more.