Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ways of Whales 2016

Last Saturday, January 23, I awoke to my alarm going off at 6:15 am. It was the earliest I had risen in a very long time. As I slowly climbed out of bed, I grumbled to myself and wondered why I was up so early on a Saturday. Then I remembered — it is Whale Workshop day!

All of the AmeriCorps members will be going to one of two conferences this winter. Being the Marine Mammal Stranding Educator, it was already decided that I would attend the Ways of Whales Workshop on Whidby Island. Now that day had finally arrived, so I shot out of bed, quickly threw on my clothes and was ready to go. I met up with my fellow whale enthusiasts, Betsy, Amy, Carolyn, and Sue and we got on our way.

Dr. Fred Sharpe speaking about one of my favorite creatures
The conference was held in the auditorium of the middle school, just inside the front doors. Even though the heat was broken, no one seemed to care — there was a strong line-up of speakers and everyone was excited.  Dana Lyons warmed up the crowd with a song about Granny, the oldest Southern Resident Orca (104 years old!) From there we heard from speakers such as Howard Garrett with the Orca Network, Fred Sharpe with Alaska Whale Foundation, and John Calambokidis with Cascadia Research Collective (John is the next lecturer in our monthly lecture series. Don't miss his talk on February 14!). Each one spoke passionately as the crowd stayed silent, listened intently to the research being conducted in their own waters. At the end of each talk, the crowd produced insightful questions, which at times stumped the speakers.

Carolyn and me at the PTMSC booth
When we were not in the lectures, we returned to the halls where a dozen nonprofits had set up informational booths covered with free stickers and brochures.

We had brought skulls from three different marine mammals and our Be A Toxic Free Zone pamphlets. We had visitors guess the species the skulls belonged to, and how a jar of mayonnaise would be able to protect these creatures.

Mayo anyone? 
I was happy to hear that many people already knew the importance of making the switch to more ocean-friendly cleaning products.

We introduced PTMSC in front of the entire crowd!
Carolyn proved herself an excellent public speaker,
I was so nervous!
Overall, this was a fantastic event and I am very happy that I was able to attend. At the end of the day, we were all exhausted and when I dropped everyone back off at my house they quickly slipped away with a weary goodbye.  Even with their quiet departure, I knew we all had a whale of a time.

Answers from last month’s quiz:
  1. Seal
  2. Sea Lion
  3. Sea Lions
Well done you guys! I slipped in a trick question on that last one. Now on to this month's species:

Harbor Porpoise vs. Dall’s Porpoise

A Porpoise is a type of toothed whale or Odontocete Whale. Similar in body shape to dolphins, porpoises are generally smaller, have rounded rostrums and spaded teeth. Additionally, while you will see dolphins swimming in pods, porpoises are less social creatures and will be swimming alone or in small groups. 

  Harbor Porpoise                                                                                   Dall’s Porpoise

137 – 170lbs
5 ft.
6-8 ft.
Back and dorsal is grey, their stomach and throat are white. 
Dark grey or black body with white patches on side of body and dorsal fin
Wide distribution across temperate waters. Found commonly in bays, estuaries, harbors and fjords less than 650 ft.
Found predominately in the North Pacific Ocean in temperate waters greater than 600 ft.
Their name is derived from the Latin word for pig (porcus) and are sometimes referred to as puffing pigs
Fun Fact
They are considered the fastest swimmers among the small whales. They are capable of reaching speeds of 30 knots (34 MPH) over short distances.

Identifying Dall’s Porpoises and Harbor porpoises can be difficult in the field. While you may not be able to see the color difference, look for the presence or absence of water spray. Because of their speed in the water, Dall’s Porpoises create a stream of water known as a rooster spray. Harbor Porpoises will not.  

KATIE CONROY is the Marine Mammal Stranding Educator and an AmeriCorps member serving at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

1 comment:

  1. Oh yeah, 100%! If you want to further test your marine mammal ID skills, here's the ultimate quiz: http://species-identification.org/species.php?menuentry=quiz&species_group=marine_mammals
    Try it on "advanced" with scientific names for maximum science nerd points.


Want to leave us a comment? Just type in your message below; we'd love to hear from you!