BAR HARBOR — Imagine a 100-foot bubble created not by humans, but by whales using the most sophisticated technology available to them – blow holes.
This summer, scientists from College of the Atlantic’s marine mammal research lab Allied Whale discovered one whale, Gemini, blowing a huge bubble cloud, enabling his whale pod easier access to the fish they devour. This holiday season, you can “adopt” Gemini with a photo and life history, and know that for $30 (or $40 for a whale mother and calf) you are assisting whale conservation.
Thanks to the pioneering research of Allied Whale, founded 40 years ago, scientists know that humpback tails, along with finback dorsal fins and body markings, can be as distinctive as human fingerprints. Having been identified, whales are tracked and family trees created, giving researchers insight into their abundance, migrations and life histories. Scientists have watched Gemini since 1976; recently they’ve observed how he provides food for others – often with the help of buddies Tusk and Notchy. They’ve also seen other group behavior, such as that of Breakers, who physically guarded a young calf from a nearby vessel that had sparked the young one’s curiosity – showing that males, too, protect the young.
Included with the adoption packet are a certificate of adoption, a photo and biography of the adopted whale, a booklet filled with whale photos, facts, and maps, a waterproof field guide to whales and whale watching, and an Allied Whale sticker.
Contributions support research that lets scientists follow captivating animals like Gemini and Breakers, who has been known to hang with dolphins as well as baby calves, and loves to stretch, roll and slap his tail against the Atlantic waters. The adoption contributions also help to protect the waters that Gemini, Breakers, and their pals live in, from Canada to the Antarctic.
Allied Whale has been at the vanguard of whale research and conservation since 1972 when it began whale observations 25 miles off the coast of Maine on Mount Desert Rock, and immediately discovered the possibilities of photo identification – still the most important and widely-used research technique for whale biologists. It has archived tens of thousands of research images of whales, maintaining identification catalogs of the North Atlantic fin whale, North Atlantic humpback whale and the Antarctic humpback whale. Thanks to this work, researchers have also discovered extreme migrations, such as the one undertaken by Oceana, traveling past two continents, or an even further journey, from Brazil, around Tierra del Fuego to Ecuador, more recently discovered. Allied Whale also carries on genetic studies of the whales that regularly return to feed off the coast of Maine and Eastern Canada. Its research also helps to discover the impact of pollution, ocean dumping, shipping, destructive fishing, and coastal development on individual whales.
To adopt a whale, or for more information on Allied Whale or the Adopt-A-Whale program, visit www.alliedwhale.org, call (207) 288-5644 or visit www.coa.edu/alliedwhale.
College of the Atlantic is a small college on the coast of Maine fostering interdisciplinary approaches to complex environmental and social problems. The academic program encourages hands-on, experiential learning and asks students to view the world as an interactive whole through its one major, human ecology. Visit www.coa.edu.