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Balloons and Breaching Blues!

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Conservation | Education | Whale Watching

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Balloons and Breaching Blues!
A blue whale calf attempting to breach!  | Joshua Meza-Fidalgo

Hi, whale fans! As I write this, I am thinking about all the amazing photos and stories I have written about these last few years. Alas, this will be my last blog post, since I am growing a human and she will be arriving very soon! But, I wanted to go out with a bang! So, I am finally going to be revealing what my personal research has been about in my master’s program in Informal Science Education at Cal State Long Beach: balloons!

You are probably wondering what balloons have to do with science education, or the ocean, or whales. As it turns out, balloons have something to do with all three of those things! Last year, I did an extensive study on how collecting balloons (basically, trash in the ocean) during a whale watch would affect the guests’ attitudes, behaviors, and actions after they had witnessed the retrieval compared to just talking about trash in the ocean. I found that having that action—stopping the boat and collecting the balloons while talking about why they are harmful—had a greater impact than just seeing trash and communicating its negative effect on the environment. It was the vehicle that drove some of the guests to think twice, not only about letting balloons go (because they have to go somewhere), but also about ocean conservation in general. I have had the opportunity to present this research at national conferences, and my poster will be displayed this year at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) conference in San Diego! The ultimate goal is to make balloon retrieval a normal part of the whale watch program to promote ocean conservation.

Recent wildlife sightings have been fantastic, which is pretty typical this time of year, but the humpbacks have been spectacular! Breaching, pectoral slapping, tail slapping, chin slapping, and spy hopping have been some of the active behaviors staff and guests have enjoyed from the recent humpback sightings. Along with humpbacks, on any given trip, we have also been sighting blue whales galore and some fin whales! Something very rare to see is a blue whale breach out of the water (since they are so massive, it is physically impossible for them to do so) but, that does not mean a blue whale calf cannot try! Lo and behold, one of the little blue whale calves that we have been seeing often attempted to breach out of the water! So cool!

I wanted to introduce another one of our interns who has been working hard to match those blue whales and get those perfect ID shots while on the whale watches, Kailey!

“My name is Kailey. I hail from the D.C. area by way of Wilmington, North Carolina, where I graduated from UNC Wilmington with a B.S. in marine biology and a minor in Spanish. Before coming to the Aquarium of the Pacific, I worked with Oceans Research in South Africa to photo identify, track, and research great white sharks. I also worked as a husbandry intern for the South Carolina Aquarium. I am thrilled to be a part of this research, as marine mammals are something I have yet to work with, and I think it’ll be a “whale-y” good time!”

Check out some of her favorite photos from her internship above!

I cannot stress enough that NOW is the time to come see the whales! Plus, we have a great combo ticket deal so you can spend half of your day with the whales and half of it enjoying the Aquarium with your family and friends. Click here for the combo ticket deal through the Aquarium’s website.

Thank you all for reading and following my blog! Next time I am out on the boat, I will have a tiny whale lover strapped to me!

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