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Gray Whales Count
updated: Sep 18, 2010, 8:15 AM
The primary objectives and purposes of Gray Whales Count are research and education about marine mammals, including, but not limited to, the migration of gray whales and their related environment: collecting and sharing data, analyzing and interpreting data, recruiting and training volunteers, and engaging in outreach to inform publics.
The principal project of Gray Whales Count is surveying the northbound migration of gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) through the nearshore of the Santa Barbara Channel. The project coordinator recruits, trains, and guides volunteers (Counters), who conduct the survey daily from land at Counter Point on the Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve, Goleta, California from early February through the middle of May each year.
Gray whales were nearly exploited to extinction yet have rebounded along the eastern north-Pacific coast. They were removed from the Endangered Species List in 1994. Even so, they remain a population very much at risk.
Monitoring the migration appears to be an effective way to gage the health of the population that embarks on one of the world's longest migrations and is affected by human activity as well as global, climate change. As such, gray whales are regarded a sentinel species, inhabiting a vast territory of ocean from the Arctic and along the California Current to temperate lagoons in Mexico.
The goals of the research are to estimate the number of gray whales and gray-whale calves migrating northbound through our corridor and to share our data to complement similar sampling-studies along the California coast.
Goals of education are to teach the process of scientific research to Counters and to give them the opportunity to conduct a meaningful study, to experience marine mammals in their environment, and to share this process and their enthusiasm with people through outreach, publications, and various media, especially the internet. We are proud that some 600,000 school children across the country work with our data, packaged by Journey North.
The survey is 105 consecutive days, which requires a focus on gathering accurate data and attention to training and coordinating a group of eighty-plus volunteers. After the survey, data analysis and reporting can take a dedicated three months, with planning for the next survey and recruitment of volunteers and interns another two to three months.
Fundraising is an ongoing endeavor with major applications prepared mostly after the survey, and, on occasion, personal solicitations for specific needs during the Count.
Throughout the year the Project Coordinator and selected volunteers give outreach presentations and scholarly lectures to further both education and science.
In the future, we plan to continue our collaborative approach to expand our capabilities in both science and education.
For more information, please visit our website
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