On the Expedition
Share the famed waters off Southern California with a diversity of whales and dolphins. Search for, spot, photograph, and identify these magnificent mammals from on deck and on shore, gathering data essential for their safety along the North American coast. Some teams will even see the famed Blue whale!
On this new project complementing former Earthwatch project Whales of British Columbia, you can help Dr. Lei Lani Stelle examine how the human impacts, such as shipping lanes and pollution are affecting marine mammal populations along the coast.
You’ll work out on the water, taking photographs of the animals to identify individuals, recording GPS coordinates of all marine mammal species, including blue whales, video-recording any unusual behaviors, and filling out data sheets with information on behavior and respiration rates. You will also sample oceanographic variables such as water temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll. From the shore, you’ll help spot whales using binoculars, track their movement using a theodolite, and video-record any unusual behaviors. Human activity such as boating and pollution will be simultaneously monitored. You’ll enter the data collected into databases and calculate respiration parameters (such as dive durations, blow intervals and number of blows). You’ll also examine photographs for evidence of injuries to whales that could be from predator attacks or boat collisions, and attempt to match the whales you’ve seen to catalogues of whale photos. In addition, you will examine spatial relationships between marine mammal distribution patterns and oceanographic and human variables using GIS (Geographic Information Systems).
Meals and Accommodations
You’ll stay in a waterfront townhouse in the quaint town of Dana Point, CA. Bedrooms are dorm-style, with no more than four people to a room, and are en-suite. Amenities include a pool, a Jacuzzi and tennis courts for relaxation during recreational times. You’ll be expected to help prepare meals with the whole team in the house’s kitchen. You will spend one night in an apartment on Catalina Island at the University of Southern California (USC) Wrigley Marine Science Center where meals are eaten at the common dining hall.
About the Research Area
The waters between the Los Angeles area and Santa Catalina Island - the Catalina Strait - are well-known for a richness of cetacean life.
Many whale species, such as Blue whales, Fin whales, and Humpbacks, migrate to the California coast to feed during the summer months. You’re also likely to see some of the year-round inhabitants which include Common, Risso’s, and Bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, and Harbor seals. There is an abundance of other marine life including a variety of seabirds, Leopard sharks, bat rays, and sunfish.
The city of Dana Point is located within Southern California’s Orange County. It is a popular surf destination and referred to as the "quintessential SoCal community".