Wednesday, July 30, 2014

{education} Day Three: Falmouth Academy class!

On the third day of the Falmouth Academy 'Biology and Behavior of Whales' summer class, we took what we learned from NOAA Fishery Biologist Fred Wenzel about life history data out into the "field" for a mock survey of cetacean abundance. We studied populations of little plastic common dolphins, orcas, sperm whales, and humpbacks that inhabit a log on campus, and we collected annual counts to see how their population was changing over time. Then the students studied up on their whale of choice and shared their knowledge in a short oral presentation to the class! They did great!

Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Then we learned all about photo-identification or photo ID, the process by which scientists use repeated photographs to identify particular individuals in a wild population based on scars or other natural markings. We learned all about photo id in North Atlantic right whales, and looked at the online photo id database maintained by the New England Aquarium. Right whales are identified primarily by the callosity pattern on the tops of their heads.






Then students took their knowledge out into the "field" where the race was on to photograph and match as many North Atlantic right whales as possible.  We learned that fieldwork can be hit or miss - some days you go out for the whole day and find nothing but bad weather.  Other trips are quite successful and you come across a huge pile of whales.

Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
We learned all about different foraging techniques and watched some cool video clips.







We chatted about some different aspects of animal behavior and the ways in which scientists can study wild animals - individually or in groups; sampling continuously over time or in a snapshot. We tried our hand at constructing a simple ethogram and putting it into practice.




and then we went outside for a round of "Capture the Whale" and cricket hunting!

Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Falmouth Academy Whales class by Christin Khan
Finally, we relaxed over some amazing footage as we watched the beginning of the National Geographic Kingdom of the Blue Whale DVD.

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