Citizen science and social media impact of ecological research: Study on southern right whales in South West Australia

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Hi! My name is Victor Alvarez and I do my research at the Office of the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching at Murdoch University. For three days during August 2016, I was fortunate to share the experience of whale research with a team of marine biologists in Augusta, Western Australia.

In a series of blog posts over the next few weeks, I will provide a closer view of this study from a first-person perspective. I’d like to share this “behind-the-scenes” of science to help you understand and get more involved with the work done by marine biologists in the field.

My goal with this blog series is to explore possibilities for communication of marine research activities and study the role of social media and citizen science in ecological research. I hope you enjoy it.

Background:

From 25 July to 12 August 2016 our Cetacean Research Unit conducted a project in collaboration with the Aarhus University Marine Bioacoustics Lab to improve our understanding of the behavioural ecology of southern right whales on their breeding and calving grounds in Augusta. This project was also aimed at gaining an understanding of how human activities may influence these baseline behavioural patterns, including suckling rates of neonate calves.

The title of this ecological study is “Movements, communication, calf suckling rates and body condition of southern right whales”. The team used innovative technologies to observe and monitor the southern right whales. We attached digital acoustic recording tags (DTAGs) to whales and monitored vocal behaviour, calf suckling rates and their acoustic environment for periods of 24 hours. In this study we also used drones (UAVs; a DJI Inspire Pro) to obtain aerial footage which helped during fieldwork and allowed researchers to measure the body size and health of the southern right whales.

Video: Study on southern right whales in Augusta (Western Australia)

The following blog series (which will become progressively available over the next few weeks) describe the different phases, steps and tasks in the study, and we’ve included videos and pictures for all the research activities:

You can already read our first post. Please stay tuned and follow the links above to know more about each one of the topics.

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Victor Alvarez PhD
Victor Alvarez PhD
Senior Research Fellow at Murdoch University, Western Australia
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