Eureka! I Spy Whales!

All week long, papers have been flooding the tables and fingers have been punching away at keyboards in our humble abode, S1. Everything was put on hold this weekend for our overwhelming proposals that each of us just barley managed to finish in the nick of time last night at midnight. Hooray! They’re finally finished! It was stressful, but it was also really fulfilling to be able to write a somewhat formal, scientifically written document. And that was just the beginning of the weeks of research to come, as we embark on our next epic, week long journey, collecting data on the Gato Verde. Beam Reach wasn’t the only class working on research proposals this week. Many of the other classes here at the labs were developing ideas for their research, and it was really fun to hear about all of the cool science that is yet to come. From something as tiny as phytoplankton to a creature as massive as a whale, the sea never ceases to amaze me with all that it has to offer.

Learning in the Lighthouse at Lime Kiln

The majority of our class time during the past week was spent at Lime Kiln, observing and collecting data for our upcoming research, and we had the best observations anyone could ask for! Resident killer whales swam to and fro in front of the lighthouse, making a dramatic appearance as if showing off to the six of us Beam Reach students, seeing them for the first time there. There was so much technical work to cover while we were at the lighthouse in preparation for our upcoming boat excursion, but according to Murphy, it wasn’t really that important. Generally, I would be unhappy about Murphy’s law interfering with our critical working and learning environment, but not this time. In my book, seeing the whales was not only one of the most important parts of my week, but also one of the most special.

Breaching Killer Whale!

Plankton tow at Lime Kiln

In our proposals, we adapted our ambitious hypotheses to accommodate the allotted time and instruments that are available to us for our research. After a lot of hard work and consideration, my hypothesis turned out something like this: in areas of the water with limited visibility, the rate of the S1 call increases in comparison to all other calls. I am pretty excited because I am developing my own visibility profiles of the aquatic environment in which the resident killer whales live, so it feels like I am doing some pretty legitimate science. The profiles I am creating are in relation to the abundance of particles, phytoplankton, and light in the water. My theory is that with more things in the water, it becomes harder for the whales to see, which in turn would have them be more reliant upon their vocal communication skills.

It has been an intense week in Beam Reach, and I imagine the intensity will be even more apparent when the writing of our full blown papers commences, but I am still so psyched to be living the life of a marine biologist and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I cannot believe how time has flown over the weeks that I have spent here in Friday Harbor. It seems like just yesterday that I was stepping off the ferry onto this beautiful and mysterious soil for the first time, relishing the unique ocean habitat that the resident killer whales are fortunate enough to experience throughout the duration of their lives. I am sure that the memories I have made here, and the memories yet to comeĀ  in this short span of ten weeks, will last a lifetime.

Dana, Me, Jamey, Phinn, Bre, and Taya at Lime Kiln

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