Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No Bones About It!

In my last post I mentioned that I was preparing to work with Lee Post, aka "The Boneman." This is all in relation to my job as an AmeriCorps environmental educator at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. It has been an amazing experience so far and I can't wait to see how the rest of the week turns out!

The last two days have been spent training volunteers to measure and photograph bones from our gray whale skeleton, which is used as a teaching tool, instead of being fully articulated as an exhibit. The trainings are all in preparation for an even bigger project at the marine science center -- the articulation and exhibition of a transient orca skeleton -- and I am so grateful that I get to be here in this time and place to be involved with this hands-on project.

Cervical vertebra from a juvenile gray whale. Photo taken on my camera phone of the experimental photography set-up.

Ever since working as an educator at The Whale Museum on San Juan Island, I had wondered what it would be like to articulate a whale skeleton. I read Lee Post's books on articulation, but never dreamed I would get to do any articulating myself. And now, some years later, I'm preparing to do exactly that; I'm training volunteers and learning about articulation from Lee Post himself!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Happiness is...

...reading the new book on blue whales, Wild Blue, by Dan Bortolotti. (Preview it on Google Books here.)

...watching a slideshow on the Southern Resident orca population, put together by the folks at The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor. (Want more? See part two here.)

...getting a package with blacklight and blacklight-sensitive paint for creating a class activity on marine mammal echolocation.

...preparing to work with Lee Post -- "The Boneman" -- on a bone/skeleton articulation project.

...the anticipation of the Ways of Whales workshop on Whidbey Island at the end of this month, put on by Orca Network.

...getting another cup of coffee, which I'm off to do right now.

Doesn't take a lot to make me happy, does it?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

121 Years

Is it really 2009 already? I've been so swamped with work lately, writing curricula on orca communication and sound underwater, that I've hardly had time for anything else. As I type this I'm catching up on all my favorite marine science blogs and watching the live dissection of a great white shark. (Have you watched that yet?)

Philip over at the New England Aquarium's Right Whale Aerial Survey Blog reports that a North Atlantic Right Whale has been seen in the Azores by biologists at the University of the Azores Dept. of Oceanography and Fisheries. This observation marks the first time a right whale has been seen around there since 1888. That's 121 years since the last sighting! Also, it turns out that this specific whale had been seen and cataloged by the folks at the New England Aquarium as recently as September of 2008. Whoa. So cool!

As exciting as this news is -- and it is very exciting -- I'm even more impressed with the Right Whale Catalog that the New England Aquarium has put together. Maintaining this resource must be a huge undertaking, and I'm glad to see it readily available online. You know what they say: "Sharing is caring!"

Friday, January 2, 2009

Whale Workshop Weekend and Whale Song

At the end of January, down at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria, California there will be a Humpback Whale workshop, led by scientist and co-founder of the Whale Trust, Dr. Jim Darling. Dr. Darling's current research is on the function of Humpback songs, which he studies from the Hawaiian island of Maui. Lucky guy!

I wonder if Dr. Darling has read Fluke by Christopher Moore? In the book, the characters figure out that the songs of Humpbacks can be translated into binary, and from that into English. What, you don't think that's possible? I would love to see someone try. I can see the article title now, "It actually means something!: Humpback song translated into binary code," or, "It has nothing to do with mating: What it really means and why they want to play Wii so bad."

Okay, who's going to help me get the Humpback/binary project started? First we'll need funding...