The last week of Beam Reach ‘07 – Week 10

I realise it has been 3 weekssince the program finished but I have been travelling and haven’t had time to post this blog. Here is how the final week of Beam Reach 07 went down.

 Monday 22nd October

What a bloody busy day! I’ve processed all of my boat data and put them into graphical form for ease of comparison. Still not sure of my stats yet but hope to get some idea for them tomorrow. Work work work.

Tuesday 23rd October to Sunday 28th OctoberAs I write this I am sitting at a table at the airport in Seattle and the Beam Reach Program is now over. Here’s how the one of the busiest weeks of my life went down.Tuesday to Thursday was the same as Monday. I wake up, go to breakfast, get my laptop, go to the library and work on my project. Some days I would change it up and work half a day in my room and half in the library. Exciting I know! I had meetings with Val everyday and we talked about how my project was going and what direction I’m heading in. Tuesday morning was a little different in that we each gave a quick oral presentation on our Sustainability Reports. As I have explained earlier, mine was on outfitting an existing whale watch vessel with a hybrid biodiesel/electric propulsion system. The sustainability part of it was that it’s using a natural fuel that when used is absorbed back into the carbon cycle, and the electric motor is almost silent underwater when slow motoring with the whales. The beauty of it is that whale watch operators could still be able to get to and from a whale watch site at high speeds and would be able to charge their battery in doing so. All it needs is someone to pioneer it. Granted it would be very expensive but if an operator did it and put a lot of marketing in it, who do you think the public would choose: an operator that is like every other operator, or an operator that has a propulsion system that is environmentally friendly and has minimal noise impact on the whales? I know who I would choose. Pretty soon the other operators would be getting the shits because this particular operator is actually the most “environmentally friendly” and getting the majority of the customers, and so the only way they can compete is to outfit their vessels with a similar system. The beauty with it is that as battery technology and electric power advances, the system can be modified to achieve greater efficiency. If only I had the money to do it myself.Thursday I analysed 101 individual echolocation clicks which was somewhat time consuming. I really should have done it earlier but I have a system with the way I work. As some of you probably know I’m somewhat of a perfectionist. I like everything to be organised and so when I write projects I think appearance is a vital part. What I mean when I say this, is that I like to have figures and formats all done before I finish the text part of my document. I hate to finish the paper knowing I have to go over everything and make sure it is all formatted. Granted that is probably how u should do it as content is the most important part of a paper, but I like to know when I’ve finished a paper, I’ve finished it (after a proof read of course), and not have to work about making sure all the graphs can be read easily. I started my presentation also, not surprisingly, I have similar “perfectionism” tendencies when creating powerpoint slides.Friday was crunch time. Up early, worked all day and yep, all night – got 2 hours sleep. Got everything finished of course but I spent way too much time “perfecting” things and could have got a lot more sleep, but I think it was the fact that I’d worked on this project for so long and it was mine, so I wanted everything to be just right. I’m quite happy with the paper overall, but of course, wish I had more time as there are so many more things I could have done with the data I had. Anyway, after 2 hours sleep on Friday night, well, early Sat morning, I got up, practiced my talk again and headed to the Commons at the Labs for the day of talks. Family members of about half the students were there, as were other well respected scientists and members of the industry (Giles, Ken Balcomb, Kari from Soundwatch and others). I was 5th off the rank, last one before lunch, and honestly I thought it went pretty well. It was the first official oral presentation I had done without notes and I was quite satisfied with my effort. I guess it was because I had worked on this paper for 10 weeks and knew it pretty much inside out so was quite comfortable in talking about it. I had to somewhat simplify the contents to make it more understandable to the general public, but I still maintained a scientific yet practical approach to the talk. It was videoed so I’ll be very interested to see what it came out like, as I have never seen what I look like when giving public presentations. During lunch I was chatting to Kari and she wanted a copy of my paper and explained to me the possibility of me going with her over winter to meet with legislators and explaining my science to them, just so they can get a basic understanding on boat noise and echolocation clicks, but particularly vessel types. Granted my work is based on a small sample size but it still really gives you an idea of what different vessels sound like underwater and how they can affect a killer whale’s ability to echolocate. I’m pretty excited as it gives me the opportunity to present science in a way that is different to giving it to an assessor for a grade for a subject. This is something that if happens, will be a fantastic experience.We finished the talks around 3 and overall they were awesome. It was really good to see exactly what everyone had been working on, as we have all been too busy to explain the specifics of our research, so it was exciting to hear what they had found. The quality of the research overall was awesome. We all had one thing in common, and that was the fact that we needed to increase our sample size. But nonetheless, awesome overall.After the talks half of the Beam Reach crew left on the 4:15 ferry so it was kind of a rushed goodbye to people I had got to know well over the past 10 weeks. As Ash and I were the only Aussies on the program and in the same group we formed a great friendship over the program and so it was tough to see her go. I know I will see her again back in Oz so I look forward to catching up with her. No doubt we will keep in touch over the next 12 months. I was absolutely buggered when I got back to the dorms so had to have an afternoon nap (2 hours of sleep will do that to you). We (half of the Beam Reach crew, family and staff) met up after dinner in the dining hall for a Leslie Veirs dessert (always amazing food) and had a bit of a slideshow presentation of some of the awesome photos taken on the program. I’m definitely blowing some of these up and framing them. It was then goodbye to the staff, but I know I will see them again as I’m going to be working (hopefully) only a few miles across the Haro Strait, and I’m confident I will see them out on the water for the Spring and Fall ’08 Beam Reach Programs. I mentioned to Scott about Beam Reach possibly being a co-supervisor for an Honours program I may do in 2009, and he definitely had a positive response so it’s something we can chat about when I settle back down in Canada. I’m excited about the prospect of continuing this kind of work that could potentially have an impact on setting a benchmark for whale watch operator vessels in the future. The operative word however being “potentially”.Anyway, after having a few drinks with the other students at the labs to celebrate the end of the program, Kenna and I went into town and met Wes and her husband there. I’d never actually been out in Friday Harbor so it was a good night as it was Halloween and pretty much everybody except us had dressed up. It would have been nice if all of us could have been there to celebrate our final night on San Juan Island but it was not to be unfortunately.Sunday I packed up all my gear, copied photos from the Beam Reach computer, said goodbye to Anne who was th
e only one left, and made my way to the ferry. Kenna and her family were on the ferry so I chatted to them, and upon arrival into Anacortes I had to go through Customs as it was an International Ferry from Sidney, B.C. US Customs being US Customs I missed my shuttle by 5 mins, which seriously annoyed me because I had booked the shuttle which you would think would wait for people to get off the ferry as the majority of its passengers would be on the ferry, but no, they left without me. I’m going to get almost a full refund so I guess that’s something. So I get out to the parking lot and yep, a woman had told me that the shuttle had just left. Foreseeing this happen I had already asked Kenna’s parents that if for some reason I miss the shuttle would it be cool if I caught a lift down to Seattle with them as they were flying out the next morning. They were more than happy to help me out so after they got through Customs in their car we re-arranged an already full car of luggage and made our way down to
Seattle Airport. They dropped me off, we said our goodbyes, and so here I am at the airport writing this final blog.The Beam Reach program has been a phenomenal experience, one that I will treasure and am very thankful for. It has helped me open up my eyes to what I want to do for the future and has given me invaluable experience to help me path that future. Don’t get me wrong, this experience was a hectic, very full on, sometimes frustrating one, but I’m happy with the outcome and how I conducted myself over the past 10 weeks.  It was a great networking opportunity and I was able to make some great contacts in the industry. I learnt al lot about the industry (both scientific in terms of marine mammal biology and bioacoustics, and eco-tourism) and this has definitely helped me get a foot in the door for potential work in the near future. Of course, the marine mammal interactions were fantastic and they will stick with me forever. I learnt a great deal and will be coming back next season to get another fix! Thanks again to everyone at Beam Reach for the great experience and the great memories, and thanks to Flinders University for allowing this program to count as the final part of my undergraduate double degree. I will definitely be promoting Beam Reach to all those that are interested, and would be happy to answer any queries people may have. Although these blog/log book entries have often been long-winded, I hope you have enjoyed reading them.

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