Room used to do scientific homework in Augusta. Photo: Victor Alvarez
Welcome! This is the fifth of seven posts in our blog series: “Citizen science and social media impact of ecological research: Study on southern right whales in South West Australia“. In the blog series, we give a citizen science perspective of our collaborative study, with the Marine Bioacoustics Lab from University of Aarhus, Denmark, on southern right whales to help you understand the work done by marine biologists in the field. Please see bottom of this blog post for an overview of future blogs in the series. This fifth post below gives a view of the accommodation during fieldwork and the work done by marine researchers during the evenings. The overall aim of developing 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.
(5/7) Base camp: Accommodation in Augusta
Biologists are not known for being picky when choosing an accommodation for their fieldwork, particularly in environmental biology, where contact with wildlife is an absolute must. In some studies, a caravan parked 3 hours away from the nearest supermarket and medical facilities makes a home for MUCRU scientists and volunteers for periods of 2-3 months. In other studies, with a larger number of collaborators and materials involved, a leased house can be turned into our “research base-camp” for a few weeks.
We mentioned in previous posts how Augusta is a privileged spot for marine research, and this is also true for the accommodation. South of town, it is possible to rent a two-story house that provides a comfortable shelter and work space for a large group of researchers participating in the study. The data collected in a few weeks will provide the basis for several months worth of analyses, and the results will be used in scientific publications and presented in scientific events and university lectures in different parts of the world.
The house chosen for the study in Augusta had an outside terrace overlooking Flinders Bay, the site for the research, which made it possible to see whales and dolphins from the terrace. The first day light and views from the house gave optimism and strength to the team for a good start to the day.
Homework: Evening at the house
Our fieldwork at Flinders Bay finished around 3 to 5 pm, depending on the weather conditions of the day, difficulties for finding the D-tag, watching whales, etc. Once off the water, the work day for the team is far from finished. Spending the evening time around a large kitchen and sitting room, bring the perfect opportunity for the team to get together in a more relaxed situation, share the impressions and happenings of the day, and get the research materials ready for next day.
The number of devices required for fieldwork research can be overwhelming. Besides the vehicles and gadgets needed to collect data, we also need to count in all the laptops and external hard disks, batteries, chargers, etc. The last part of the day is dedicated to ensure all the collected data is stored adequately and the devices are charged and fully operational.
Some of the stories shared by the team concerned the importance of these data and how to manage the uncertainty of loosing any information. The team makes various copies of the data using the laptops and external hard drives. Research data is so valuable for the scientists that it is not unusual for them to bring one copy on a hard disk that is with them at all times, even in the rare case of making an evening break at the local bar.
..and Good night!
Once all the data has been downloaded and backed-up, and all the checks thoughtfully done, it’s time to wish good-night and get a well-deserved rest. If a D-tag has been attached to a whale, a researcher will set an alarm during the night to check out the radio signal and facilitate the location of the D-tag early in the morning.
All is ready for another day of fieldwork in Augusta.
You can navigate through previous sections of the blog series via the below links:
- (I) The research location and its importance in the migration of southern right whales
- (II) Watching whales
- (III) How to attach, track and recover D-tags
- (IV) Using a drone to measure behaviour and health
- (V) Homework: downloading research data and getting ready for next day (this post)
- (VI) Informing and engaging the local community
- (VII) A first-person perspective of a student researching with MUCRU