Archive for the ‘2007 fall’ Category

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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Closing in on zero hour

I like these interesting titles. Maybe they’re the only parts of my posts that are interesting. At least that’s one thing though…
I’m working on my last and FINAL revision of the paper. Val sent me corrections yesterday, and MASSIVE reformatting of my results was in order, chopping down my page total from 25 to 22. Today I’m actually reading over everything again and revising though. I practiced my presentation with Val earlier too, with a grand total of 23 minutes as my speaking time. Not great. And I didn’t even point to my figures or pictures, which Val says I need to do. So I tried to cut out a few things, and I might have to trim my notes a bit, say less because after all, if it’s on the slide, people can read it, don’t NEED to hear it too.
After lunch today I went to the Gato Verde to take my turn bailing out the water from the port berth that it’s leaking into. I volunteered to do so because I felt I should, but I really was not happy about it at all. I don’t think most people take me too seriously about it, and I can’t even understand it myself, but I have a genuine anxiety about being on the boat. Sam came with me to help though, and beyond just pouring out the water when I passed the bucket up to her, she helped me A LOT because her presence was very reassuring and I needed that. It’s not a nice thing to have such a weakness that can make you feel so helpless.
I’m pretty sure my parents and brother have arrived in Seattle by now. They’re staying in Anacortes tonight, but they’re coming in on the 9:300 ferry tomorrow, and I will definitely be there to meet them when it arrives. Being apart from them for 10 weeks is one of…maybe the single most…difficult things I have ever done.
I can’t believe this is really it. I went through a lot of days when the program seemed like it would never end, but it is now almost here…and I’m almost kind of sad. Just walking to the dining hall for dinner earlier, I could see the sun set bathing the horizon in a flood of colors, and I thought EVERYTHING here is like a postcard. Beauty and just really amazing things everywhere. And then the people I’ve met here…after 10 weeks I’m really going to miss some of them. Sam and Ash are already set to visit me soon after the program, which I’m super-excited about. I hadn’t really thought about whether I’d keep in touch with other students from the program when I was applying, but I don’t think I could NOT do that now. While I am more than ready to be done with the research and the writing (which I have to go back to as soon as I finish this) there are a lot of things that will be hard to let go of. And even if no one else cares about anything that I’ve written in this blog because it’s not terribly exciting or germane to orcas or sustainability or general aspects of the program…it’s important to me because this will probably be my last blog, and I think it will be nice to be able to go back to read something like this.
Just got a phone call from my parents, they’re in Seattle now! 😀 And so life moves on.

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A fork in the data road, wildlife rehab & teaching kids – Week 9

Monday 15th October – Tuesday 16th October

I slept in until lunchtime on Monday as lack of sleep had really caught up on me from the last week at sea. I was the last one to bed every night last week and knew it would catch up with me eventually. I’ve vowed to stay active and eat less each meal over the next 2 weeks. It will be easier to eat less but staying active is tougher because the weather has been pretty miserable here and there are not any treadmills or bikes at the labs. Also, the fact that we all have a lot of work to do and most of our time is spent in front of the computer analysing data and writing up, I can’t take too much time off to get a good work out. Guess I’ll just have to make do and do resistant exercises in my room.

Not much to report really. I was meant to go out with Giles today as we were pretty sure there would be whales around today (Tuesday) but nothing eventuated. Going out with Giles is meant to be part of my service project so if I don’t go out with her I’ve organised to go to a place with Ash called ‘Wolf Hollow’ that rehabilitates wild animals that have been injured or separated from their parents. That will happen tomorrow afternoon. Also, I’m going to help out Anne on Saturday at the

Museum with an elementary school education thing that she is helping to run. I’m a bit worried because I think the kids may find my accent hard to understand if I am trying to tell them about the whales. Either that or they’ll think it’s funny. Either way it should be fun and interesting. I’m going for a run now. Catcha.


Wednesday 17th October

Today I completed Part “Ichi’ (Japanese for ‘One’) of my Service Project as part of this program. Ash I went to Wolf Hollow this afternoon for 4 hours. It’s a place on a small property in the middle of

San Juan
Island that takes care of and rehabilitates all wild creatures great and small. We got there at around 1pm and got to see a harbor seal pup that had just come in. It was in the incubation chamber and just looked up at us with it’s beady brown eyes. I know it’s not a very guy thing to say but they really are cute. Then we cut up apples for almost an hour and a half to make apple sauce to bag and freeze for all the critters. Ash and I then cleaned out a squirrel cage. By clean out I mean faecal matter that the little lovelies had left for us, and scrubbing was a priority. We knew the volunteer work would involve these kinds of activities so we just got on with it.  The rest of the afternoon was spent going around with Penny (wildlife rehabilitator) feeding the animals. We fed yearlings (young deer) and got to see a white/brown deer that is apparently endemic to
Island (island west of
San Juan). It’s colouration is due to a genetic anomaly that apparently shortens an individual’s life span. Currently around campus there are a lot of male deer (bucks), and apparently it is due to the fact that it is coming up on hunting season and so the bucks come onto campus as they know they can’t be hunted here because it is a Biological Reserve. Smart creatures. I thought it was because it was mating season and they’re scoping out the females. I may still be right. Might see if I can film my own nature documentary. Anyway, after feeding the young deer we went to the raccoon enclosure. They had 19 young raccoons in this cage around a tree and it was a sight to see, all climbing, playing, hanging upside down and running around. Penny poured water into their bowls and because raccoons are very tactile creatures they like to rub their hands in the water as if they are washing them. It actually looks pretty funny. Pretty soon all of them were down around the water and coming right up to the fence and staring at us. We had to keep our distance of course as we don’t want to “humanise” them too much. I took some video of these playful, yet sometimes rabid, creatures and then was on my way. Next stop was back to the main house where they have four pools all with harbor seals in them. You must stay quiet while walking around the pools, but the seals always know you’re there, because they haul out onto the platform in the middle and just watch you. We then went inside and fed cut up bits of mice to an injured juvenile short-haired owl, but it just regurgitating the bits back up. There were 3 squirrels in a cage next to the owl that were very feisty. One of the squirrels was holding its acorn ever so tightly and would appear to give off a threat display by coming right up to the cage door and “puffing itself up”. After leaving the angry little squirrels we fed some ducks, fed a crow that had apparently attacked a little kid at a school, and got to see their resident eagles (I can’t remember what types they were, sorry). It’s interesting because Wolf Hollow rehabilitates animals that are from the mainland, then sends them back to the mainland as there aren’t any present on the
San Juan Islands (e.g. squirrels, o-possums). Wish I could have seen an o-possum. Anyway, we were invited to a seal release on Saturday arvo so that will be cool.

We had dinner and the JaMi group had docked at the labs as they have been having power issues on the GV. After dinner Shannon gave us a talk about

School (i.e. Masters or PhD) and a few things to consider before getting involved in it. Basically I took away from the evening that grad school is not really where I want to be, as research is not where I want to be. The thing about research is, you spend 30% of the time out in the field, and 70% in the lab or at a desk, and I want to be out there almost 100% of the time. I do get excited about the prospects of finding out something “new” and “cutting edge”, but what really interests me is being out there and educating people first hand about marine mammals and marine life in general, which is why I am going to seriously look into running my own eco-tour business. I know I’ve said this before but the conversation tonight made me realise that I don’t want to dedicate another 4+ years of my life to something I’m not completely passionate about. Granted a lot of research and background reading has to go into opening up my own business, but I love the idea of being my own boss and being the driver of my own success. Working in
Canada next season will certainly give me experience and I’m sure it will also give me ideas that I can take home to Oz. Watch this space.


Thursday 18th October

A definite data day today. I have gone through all of my sound files and determined at what point in the files I can use to create my spectrums. I had a meeting with Val this afternoon to further discuss how I am going to represent my data. I’m going to use the killer whale audiogram and relate it to all the vessel types at the two distances and speeds and determine which ones lie above or below the audiogram at certain frequencies. From this I can infer which vessels, and at what speed and distance may possibly be masking an orca’s ability to receive echolocation clicks. I’m not sure about what stats I’m going to use yet but I mustn’t get too far out of the scope of this program, as I only have 10 days to finish this, so I must be realistic as to what I can accomplish to a certain level (a high level that I always seem to put on myself). It’s amazing how much my project has evolved over the last 3-4 weeks. My methods for boat sampling advanced quite a bit and I got the time it takes to do a boat recording down to 15min. I guess though that’s how it is with research in the field, it’s a process of trial and error, only this research program is very fast paced and things evolve very quickly. I still have to write the sustainability report that is due on Saturday, so that may be a job for tomorrow as Saturday we have the Whale Museum educational talk for the kids and the afternoon is the seal release. As I said, all systems go! Better get back to work.


Friday 19th October

A somewhat productive day today but no where near as much as I would have liked. I worked on my sustainability/impact reduction report, went into town to get a haircut, then went to the

Museum to actually go upstairs and check out the exhibits. It has some really awesome displays up there. A full minke and an orca skeleton hanging from the ceiling, seal skulls and foetuses, video footage, interactive sound boards created by the fearless VaTo instructor, Mr Val Veirs. It was an educational hour or so, but nonetheless a distracting hour or so that could have been spent working on my project. I’m back working now in the library so better get back to it.


Saturday 20th October

I enjoyed today. I went with Anne this morning to the

Museum as she had organised as part of her service project to have a few hours of activities to help kids learn about whales. I helped Anne set up activities that involved kids wearing a glove of butter in cold water to see the insulating properties of blubber. Another activity involved little bits of dried parsley (simulating plankton) in a tub of water and using a comb, small plastic bag and a straw to simulate different ways that whales feed. The comb simulated baleen for those whales that are “skimmers”, the small plastic bag for those that are “gulpers”, and the straw to blow bubbles for those that are “bubblers (i.e. humpbacks). Another activity was using olives, butter and staples in a tub of water to get kids to understand buoyancy. There was a whale ID section where kids used the ID guide for the Southern Residents to identify individuals that we had photos of, and Anne had a computer set-up with different underwater sounds that can be heard in these waters (e.g. speed boats, cargo ships, and of course killer whales!). It was just Anne and I in the morning to start with (other VaTo members came later), and that was actually the busiest time of the whole session (11am-3pm). I really enjoyed teaching the kids about whales, but what was even more rewarding was chatting to the parents and actually teaching them a thing or two! I really think I will enjoy working on the whale watch boats next season, as I really want to educate people about marine mammals and having them ask questions that I can answer is something I find very rewarding.
This work today will count towards Part “Nee” (two in Japanese) of my Service Project, so now I’m all done! At about 2pm Ash and I went a harbor seal release that the Wolf Hollow people were doing. Two harbor seals were being released that had been in rehab for a couple of months after being stranded as pups. It was really satisfying seeing them being released back into their natural environment. Overall it took about 10-15min, as once they were out of the cages they swam around for a little bit, constantly popping their heads out of the water and looking around, then seemed to get further and further away. They were released near a known haul out site so no doubt they will meet other seals there and get on with their fish eating, sun baking, heavy breathing pinniped life.

It’s Saturday night as I write this and I have just finished my Sustainability report. As I mentioned last week, I have chosen to do it on hybrid diesel-electric marine propulsion systems. I have explained basically what the system is, used the Gato Verde as a case study, then stated what would be needed to outfit a whale watch boat with a similar technology, and why this is a sustainable practice. If you would really like to read it then go to and look under ‘Hybrid diesel-electric propulsion systems’. It’s really late, and the JaMi group is coming in pretty early tomorrow, and then we begin the huge Gato Verde clean-up!


Sunday 21st October

An eventful day here at the Friday Harbor Labs. The JaMi group got into the dock at around 9am and the clean-up began. Of course it rained all morning which made things just grand.
Shannon was dropped off at the ferry at 8am to leave the Beam Reach program and continue on another path in her life. I said goodbye to her on Wed night. It was bloody great having her on the program, as she brought a good mix to the situation and of course her marine mammal knowledge and paper writing skills were a great resource. Plus the fact the she had lived in Oz for a few years and has been through similar things that I have been through really made my time out on the boat just that much more enjoyable, even more enjoyable than what it already was! I wish her all the best over in the UK and then next season in
Antarctica as a Marine Mammal Biologist. What an awesome job that would be! Something I may indeed look into after I have a bit more experience in the field. Anyway, so we were all assigned jobs to do on the GV, and I got galley and pretty much cleaning storage areas in, on and above it, yes that included the ceiling. I don’t mind cleaning, and within about 4 hours (it did take a while) the GV was looking pretty shmick! Cleaner than when we boarded 8 weeks ago anyway! That afternoon, well it ended being after dinner, and after an afternoon of technical issues, I watched the Rugby World Cup Final with Irish Dan up in the Commons. We were able to stream it and then watch it projected from the computer with decent speakers, so it was really like watching it at the pub on the big flatscreen. I was happy the Springboks got up, as I didn’t really want
England to win it two World Cups in a row. I was in two minds initially though to tell you the truth;
England knocked the Wallabies out so I didn’t like them for that, but half my family is English so I felt I should barrack for the country of my heritage. Still, although it wasn’t a very eventful game, the celebrations from the South Africans were awesome to watch.

I had to move rooms this morning as I shared a room with Heather when we rotated from sea to land, and because the JaMi group was coming back, we the VaTo team moved to the spare rooms in the dorm to make their transition back to land flow more smoothly. I’m writing this knowing that when I wake up in the morning it’s going to be head down bum up to get this paper and presentation done. Bring on the Red Bull!

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Get Out the Blubber Glove

That’s right! Blubber glove.

This past Saturday was People for Puget Sound’s Kid’s Day and for my service project, I organized an activity fair that focused on marine mammals. Children and their parents came to the whale museum and learned to identify killer whales by looking at their saddle patches and dorsal fins. They also listened to Brett’s (Beam Reach class 051) Puget Soundscape to hear the noises of the local underwater world. Children had the chance to try their hand at being a “bubbler,” “skimmer,” or “gulper.” Or, said another way, children learned about the different eating techniques of baleen whales.

And then there was the blubber glove. I think that this activity was the hit of the day- it certainly was my favorite. I had a bucket of water with ice floating in it. I would ask a child to stick their fingers in the water and tell me how long they thought that they could swim in the cold water. Answers varied from 3 seconds to 1 hour. I then showed the child a bag filled with butter-flavored Crisco- the blubber glove. There were a number of “Eww, what is that?” responses, but most of the kids were willing to poke at the squishy yellow insides of the bag. After we talked about what was in the bag (butter which is a fat like blubber, but no… it’s not real whale blubber), I had the child stick their hand inside the blubber glove and then into to the cold water while also putting their bare hand in the water with the instruction to pull out each hand when it got cold. Very quickly, out came the bare hand while the blubber gloved hand remained comfortable. An insulating layer of fat- what an amazing adaptation for a warm blooded animal living in 50° water.

Overall, I think the day was quite successful. Approximately 25 children came to The Whale Museum with their parents, though much to Val’s chagrin, I don’t have any pictures of the happy tykes.

A big, huge, whale-sized thank you to Tim, Alex, Sam, and Ash for giving time out of their very busy schedule to volunteer on this day.

On an unrelated note, both Val and Jason have declared my research project “interesting” followed by exclamations of “This is science!” It is interesting, and it certainly is science of the “this is new research so the results don’t make immediate sense” variety. I am enjoying the puzzle as long I push away my desire to have neat statistically-analyzed results.

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End of the rainbow


Saturday, October 20, 2007


We woke up to a rainbow ending behind the harbor master’s office and a light dusting of snow on the Olympic mountains. We left Port Angeles after a breakfast of Jason’s homemade pancakes. Transient killer whales were spotted briefly on our way to try to catch up with members of L pod that had been reported off San Juan Island. As we sailed, we worked on data analysis, final papers, and power point presentations. Heather and Elise heated up our remaining left-over’s and made egg salad (again!), which we managed to polish off for lunch. We found Superpod around 3:30 in the afternoon near Turn Point on Stuart Island. Our last day on the Gato Verde was spent watching the whales breach, tailslap, spyhop, and roll with pink elfshoes on display. As evening approached, we pulled up the hydrophone array for the last time and headed east to come down the San Juan Channel to spend the night at Jones Island. Liz and Kenna prepared vegetable medley pasta surprise and we looked forward to hearing about Shannon’s research before watching Ingrid Visser’s documentary, Killers I Have Known.

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Buzzing at PA

Friday, October 19, 2007


The storm had settled, but there was still no sign of the whales, so we decided to sail over to Port Angeles.  After scrambled eggs for breakfast and offloading our recycling, garbage and compost, we untied the Gato Verde from the dock at Friday Harbor Labs.  Progress was slow through Cattle Pass, but we passed the time debating ethics of intelligent mammals in captivity.  There were a number of Steller sea lions feeding on salmon at the surface as we reached the mouth of Cattle Pass.  We hoisted the main and unfurled the screecher to take advantage of the 15-20 knot winds.  Liz and Elise prepared egg salad for lunch and reached Port Angeles around 4 pm.  Shannon, Elise, Liz, Kenna, and Heather headed into Itsy Bitsy Buzz café for internet and caffeine fixes.  After Buzz, we enjoyed the evening stroll back to the docks.  Kenna and Shannon prepared veggie stir-fry for dinner and we settled in for the evening—drinking tea, reading manuscripts, and writing this blog.

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It's almost crunch time

I think the first time I ever heard the phrase “crunch time” was when I was working in a microbiology lab in high school for the Intel Science Talent Search contest. It was probably about a month before my final paper was due. This was also around the time that my mentor actually got serious about REALLY working with me. Anyway, different setting, different story, another lifetime.

I’ve been calculating and analyzing, and then recalculating and analyzing over and over, the data that I’ve gathered on vessel noise, both individual and cumulative, and the VaTorecordings of orca calls. I managed to localize 81 calls so those are what I’m using to calculate source levels, and I have 19 individual noise files, 11 cumulative vessel noise files. I’m hoping that these are acceptable sample sizes. Already I’ve gotten calculated numbers, some of which seem so implausible that I almost fell out of my chair when I saw what Excel was showing me, but having gone over my equations several times, it looks like they do in fact reflect the findings of my raw data. Whether or not everything is RIGHT is a whole other story. It’s funny, I used to think that the natural sciences were the only place where “right” and “truth” actually meant something, (because it’s all relative everywhere else), but I’m finding more and more that even in physics you’re not safe (of course I would never be safe in physics). For sound propagation to determine my SLs, I’m using the spreading experiment we did out on the boat a few weeks ago, which gave me what appeared to be a questionable number, but I’m no scientist, who am I to say what makes sense and what doesn’t here? Literally every paper I’ve read involving sound propagation uses a different model, whether theoretical, empirically derived, or computer-generated. So taking that into account, I suppose my method is as good as any other, especially over small distances (or so Val has reassured me).

So now another crazy thing came up today that seemed to throw everything out of wack for a little while, but now I’ve got everything under control. I think. It had to do with some long and rather complicated discussions I had with both Jason and Val regarding the frequency range I’d be looking at for my analysis. Back when I was doing sound spectra, I thought I’d limit myself to the call range of 1-10 kHZ, but now I’m not doing spectra anymore, and it would involve a lot of extra math if I were to zero in on that range for every one of the files I’m including in my data analysis. And also…I don’t like math very much. The most straightforward option that Val suggested was just using the numbers I’ve already calculated anyway, i.e. considering the entire broadband range from 0-25 kHz. So…how do I justify THAT? Read enough papers, as I well know, and you’re bound to find what you’re looking for. While calls are mostly in the 1-10 kHz range, the audiogram extends well beyond that, and the frequency at which hearing is most sensitive is actually 20 kHz (thanks Szymanski). And vessel noise, the really crucial variable in my project, that definitely goes way over 10 kHz, and even over the upper broadband range limit of 25 kHz. So I’ve decided that it makes perfect sense to work with the numbers I’ve already spent hours figuring out…and that is what I am going to do.

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Thursday at Friday

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Whistling winds woke us.  Weather predictions warned of gale-force winds up to 45 knots and wind waves up to 8 feet.  Mike had secured extra lines to the dock overnight, so we ate breakfast, completed our chores and sat down to our morning meeting.  We decided it would be prudent to stay put and revisit our plans after lunch.  The morning was spent working on data analysis and sustainability reports.  Liz and Kenna prepared tuna salad, cream of mushroom soup and left over Mexican for lunch.  Unfortunately, the winds continued to pick up with waves crashing over the dock at Friday Harbor Labs and soaking us up the waist on our way back to the Gato Verde.  We listened to the hydrophones at Lime Kiln and in front of Val’s house, but there was no sign (or sound) of the whales.  So the group decided to stay at the labs for the day, hoping for an early morning departure.  The afternoon continued with data analysis, project discussions, and sustainability edits and revisions.  Shannon and Jason prepared veggie curry and rice for dinner.  After dinner, students continued to work and took advantage of showers, internet, and decent cell phone reception.

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Dock to dock

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


We took advantage of the land facilities while we were docked at Fisherman’s Bay this morning.  After a quick breakfast, chores, and a few phone calls, we sat down to our morning meeting.  We decided to make our daily round of phone calls to try to see if there was any news on the whales, but there were no sightings.  We decided to poke our nose out at Cattle Pass and hove to in order to drop the hydrophones.  But the whales were not only absent, but also silent.  Kenna and Sam prepared potato soup with sandwich fixings for lunch.  After lunch we headed up the San Juan Channel to Friday Harbor to pump out.  Tracy deboarded the Gato Verde to head back home, Kenna pumped out the holding tank, Mike filled up the water tank, and Wes and Liz ran to Kings to buy a few essentials.  We moved onto Friday Harbor Labs and tied up at the dock.  The students hit the ground running, grabbing computers and cell phones.  Wes prepared dinner, Shannon tried to help, Heather grabbed a shower, Sam spoke on the phone, Liz got some work done, Elise caught up with her sister and Kenna helped move boats around on the dock.  After vegetable casserole with salad, Shannon led a discussion on graduate school advice.  The group spent the evening taking advantage of showers, internet connections, lab computers, and cell phone signals.

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Ebonics blog by Wes–with translation

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Waz up USA?  Today tha Ghetto Verde was hoppin fo sho.  This be S. Fowla in da crib.  Tha crew said my grill was shining extra bright dis mornin.  We woked up at Mickey K’s.  We was fini go get T.S. when tha electrizil went to s*^@!  We ate some grub and bounced to tha straits.  There was so many vanilla faces I couldn’t tell em apart.  I saw a sea lion and I was skerred it was fini come up on tha boat.  I said, “Hellllllllz no” and we bounced.  It was peanut butta jelly time, so we’z ate.  When they was cranking tha sail, Liz, Elise and Heatha almost popped, locked, and dropped it out tha boat.  When tha waves was whackd, I told em, lean wid it, walk wid it; go wid da flow.  We’z ate Mexican and cornbread fo dinna.  Don’t playa hate.  Peace.

                                                                                                            -Ebonics Blog by Wes


Translation—We woke up again at Mackaye Harbor, had a quick breakfast, and completed morning chores before heading to Fourth of July Beach to pick up Tracy.  We headed out of the straits to attempt some sailing, but the winds and the weakness of the torn (now mended) sail deterred us—although Liz, Elise and Heather gave it a valiant effort.  A number of female Steller sea lions followed in our wake.  As Jason picked up a back-up generator for the week, Shannon and Sam prepared soup and sandwiches for lunch.  After lunch, the students went through their sailing practical—tacking back and forth and taking turns at the helm up and down the San Juan Channel.  At about 4 pm, we pulled into Fisherman Bay for shore power, showers, and water.  Unfortunately, the pump out was broken, so we had to hold it.  We spent the evening doing data analysis and working on sustainability reports.  Elise and Liz prepared Mexican for dinner and afterwards, we settled back down to our computers.


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