SOURCE: Canadian Wildlife Federation

Canadian Wildlife Federation

September 28, 2016 06:00 ET

Search the Seas With Whale Scientists

HALIFAX, NS--(Marketwired - September 28, 2016) - Robotic drones with underwater listening devices are now gliding through the ocean recording the sounds made by the earth's largest sea creatures -- the baleen whales. For the first time the public can follow along and watch some of the discoveries at the same time as the scientists.

The Particle, Fish and Whale Lab at Dalhousie University (fishocean.ocean.dal.ca) is using these innovative tools to search for large whales in Atlantic Canada and to study why whales use different parts of our ocean, under a project called the Whales, Habitat and Listening Experiment.

The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) is working with these researchers to provide a way for the public to follow along with this research -- in real time -- and to learn about the great whales that live in Canadian oceans. A website (apps.cwf-fcf.org/whales) has been created with a map that shows the paths of the drones as well as the types of whale they are hearing. This website also contains information on the species of whales, the sounds they make, and the ways that human activities may affect them.

The research program will continue until mid-November, during which time, the map will be updated weekly (Tuesdays) and blogs will be regularly posted to carry on the conversation about this project and its importance.

"This is an exciting opportunity to share some of the most exciting aspects of being a scientist with the public," says Dr. Kimberley Davies, project co-ordinator with the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction Response Network -- Whales, Habitat and Listening Experiment.

"Many people are surprised to learn about the number and the types of great whales that swim through our oceans everyday -- sometimes, surprisingly nearby," says Dr. Sean Brillant, Senior Conservation Biologist, Marine Programs with CWF. "This is a great tool for Canadians to connect with these awe-inspiring animals."

For more information and to follow the whales, visit CanadianWildlifeFederation.ca.

About the Canadian Wildlife Federation:
The Canadian Wildlife Federation is dedicated to fostering awareness and appreciation of our natural world. By spreading knowledge of human impacts on the environment, sponsoring research, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, recommending legislative changes and co-operating with like-minded partners, CWF encourages a future in which Canadians can live in harmony with nature. Visit CanadianWildlifeFederation.ca for more information.

Backgrounder:

Whales, Habitat and Listening Experiment (WHaLE)

The Whales, Habitat and Listening Experiment (WHaLE) uses underwater acoustics and mobile unmanned drones called gliders to measure whales and their habitats in Canadian waters.

WHaLE collects and distributions this information to numerous partners to help prevent whale-ship strikes and minimize acoustic interference with large baleen whales.

How it works:

Gliders are torpedo-shaped unmanned robots that can safely collect data in remote open-ocean locations and transmit data to shore via satellite. WHaLE has equipped the gliders with acoustic sensors to record whale sounds and attribute those sounds to particular species in near real-time. The gliders are also equipped with sonar and other instruments to measure whale habitat, which helps researchers explain where and why certain species make their habitats. This information is critical to conservation planning.

This summer, researchers attached 30 hydrophone recorders on the sea floor across the continental shelf and shelf-break from the Labrador Sea to southern Nova Scotia for year-round recording of whale sounds.

Three gliders were also released.

Who's involved:

The WHaLE project is a partnership that includes researchers from Dalhousie University, University of Victoria, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Ocean Tracking Network Canada, Canadian Whale Institute, University of British Columbia, and JASCO Applied Sciences. WHaLE relies on generous support contributed by 21 non-profit, private sector and governmental organizations across Canada and the US.

The WHaLE project is funded by a $700,000 grant provided by Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) as announced in August 2014 and by an additional $2.67 million in matching contributions and support from partners in all sectors.

Why it's important:

There are more than 30 species of whales in Canadian waters but many of them are at risk. The largest of these whales include the Blue, Right and Fin Whales, Until we know more and take action, threats like ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, climate change and noise pollution will continue to pose a real threat to our majestic whales.

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