News of mid season
The field season is now in full swing and office space is in high demand at the research station with eight team members, two visiting scientists, and four interns in house. In addition to daily tasks such as downloading images, matching photographs, and maintaining the research vessels, several different projects are underway. Richard, Christian, and Julien have just submitted two papers on fin whale calving intervals. Rene Swift, and his assistant, Marie Guilpin are visiting from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Rene's PhD focuses on the foraging ecology of baleen whales; they are here for the season to tag humpback whales. Brianne is working on publishing her Master's thesis on blue whale habitat use in relation to environmental variables, and Joanna is collecting and organizing skin and blubber samples for her upcoming PhD on the relationship between body condition and reproductive status in humpback whales.
Earlier this week, the team headed to Mingan for a boat safety training course where we learned how to handle 'man overboard' emergencies. We practiced tossing throw lines and driving sharp turns at high speed in the boat. To obtain a new Transport Canada permit to carry passengers, we also crammed all fourteen of us into Twister to test the flotation and weight and balance of the boat it passed the test!
A few members of the team work as marine mammal observers (MMOs) for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. They are based on-shore in Mingan, where a new commercial dock is being built to replace the one that was destroyed by a fire in 2009. The MMOs are responsible for alerting the construction workers to the presence of cetaceans during pile driving activities. Once a cetacean is observed, the construction crew is required to stop pile driving for half an hour once the animal has left the area. These measures were put in place to help prevent any adverse effects on the cetaceans as a result of a large increase in underwater noise during construction.