The Andenes project has two overarching goals. First, the team intends to increase general knowledge about cetacean species in North Norwegian waters, especially in the Vesterålen region, and contribute to the conservation of the marine environment. Second, to transmit the acquired information to the local communities to raise awareness about cetacean importance, while offering economically viable alternatives to direct exploitation for the whole country. To achieve these goals, the group will work toward three scientific objectives:
- Investigate the spatial and temporal distribution of all the species of cetaceans in the waters around Vesterålen to assess the population status and seasonality of each species. This includes studying the habitat use and residency of every species individually. The general knowledge about cetaceans in the region is poor, and many gaps are to be filled to better understand the ecosystem and to identify and preserve the services it can offer.
- Identify the potential impacts to which every species is exposed, such as oil exploration, fisheries, vessel traffic and whale-watching growth.
- Determine the degree of interaction between human activities and cetaceans and dolphins, while also proposing advice regarding conservation measures in the study region where cetaceans are the source of a sustainable economic activity. In particular, you’ll help develop and implement whale-watching guidelines which currently do not exist in Norway.
As a volunteer member of the Andenes research team, you will play an active role in many aspects of the research. In some cases, you may also help in the process of communicating findings to the international or local communities. Through this process, play a critical role in preserving important whale habitats, and you may also add significantly to our knowledge of sperm whale behaviors, habits, and needs.
Meet the Scientists
University of Zagreb & University of Valladolid
Iva Kovacic is the Principle Investigator for this project, and also the Responsible Researcher at the Marine Research and Education Fund of Andenes (MAREFA). She holds a Masters in Marine Biology at the University of Zagreb (Croatia) and is currently undertaking two PhDs, on feeding ecology of toothed whales in the Adriatic through the University of Zagreb and on population genetics through the University of Valladolid. She has been working with whales and dolphins in the field site in Northern Norway for the past eight years, both conducting research projects and as a naturalist guide onboard whale-watching boats, and is particularly focused on investigating the human impacts on whales, such as seismic surveys. Her broad experience on marine mammals acquired through her work in Croatia, Norway, United Kingdom and Greece have provided her with a strong scientific background. Additionally she gained a deep expertise in developing education activities and working with volunteer teams while working in the whale watching industry in Norway.
Marta Acosta Plata
University Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid
Marta Acosta Plata has been conducting research in the field site for four years and now is permanently based in Andenes. She is conducting her PhD project on male sperm whale social structure and migration. Her work has included land-based and boat-based research, and she is extensively trained in research techniques and how to deal with the risks and hazards that volunteers might encounter. Marta has a broad experience in giving marine mammal and conservation courses, and has previously organized field research trips to Norway in which she trained and supervised volunteer groups. She acquired cetacean research experience through projects in Greece, Spain, Norway and Argentina.
University of Zagreb
Nina Majnaric is a Masters student of Animal Genetics in Zagreb University. She did her bachelors thesis on Marine Mammals, and became a member of MAREFA team in 2012. She is specialized in boat-based data collection and matching the photo-ID pictures of pilot whales and sperm whales.
Luca Tassara is a Masters student of Marine biology at Tromsø University. He first came to Andenes in 2010 to collect acoustic data from sperm whales, and has been a member of MAREFA team since 2011. He has an expertise in recording whale sounds and in photo-ID. His Master thesis research is focusing on the interactions between the killer whales and sperm whales in Northern Norway, using observation and photo-ID data.