Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

 

For many, Sunday is a day of rest. And that is what the weather gods had given us. With increasing winds and 6 metre swells, we weren’t going to sea. So a much-needed break from the boat work was enjoyed by all. A chance for the team to explore Faial.

Monday saw us all glued to the computer screens. Days at sea generate hundreds of images that are used to identify individuals of different cetacean species. But these images need to be sorted and organised, and so the team spent much of the day sifting through photos of sperm whale flukes, pilot whale fins and Risso’s dolphins.

After a first edit to select the best images these can then be collated, for later ‘matching’ to the existing catalogues of known individuals. This way we can begin to identify which cetacean individuals (and species) have been where and when before – a match!

For many species, each image can also be cross-referenced to GPS co-ordinates, and thus we can continue to deduce patterns of whale/dolphin movement (both for species and individuals) over space and time in the Azores. Such data sets not only take time to collect in the ‘field’, but take almost as long to sort on computers – as our team will testify.

But the reward can be quick. Images of sperm whales collected just this last week, were matched to four individuals first recorded in 2014 and one individual from 2010. We cannot only match individuals to catalogues in the Azores but sometimes from elsewhere in the Atlantic, elevating the power and value of the data. To have matches so early in the expedition is great news.

Tomorrow we may record some more as we hopefully return to the ocean, if the weather gods are on our side…

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Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago

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