Whales of Guerrero Research Project
Katherina Audley, a long-time visitor to Playa Blanca, runs a community–run humpback whale research and education project to study the local humpback whale population, improve science education regionally and support informed, responsible marine ecotourism in the region.
Every winter humpbacks migrate to the area to breed and give birth to their young. Almost everyone who has spent time at Playa Blanca during the winter has seen the whales from the beach as the mothers and babies breach and play. But this is the first effort to do systematic fluke identification and tracking. Kat and volunteer biologists spend the day on the water photographing the whales and recording their songs. They spend the evenings in the village where they have taught the local children about the whales and now virtually every kid will sing you their own whale song on cue.
This is a fantastic project both for the scientific information it is yielding and for the enthusiasm it is sparking in the locals about whales and their natural environment.
Whales of Guerrero Research Project has completed three of an intended five-year field study of the humpback whales and dolphins in the region. Marine mammals have never been studied in the state of Guerrero before and their research is conducted in true partnership with the community of Barra de Potosí and publicly shared with the global science community.
Every year, during their 10-week winter field season, WGRP reaches over 1000 kids in schools, libraries and community events through their marine biodiversity educational programs, which highlight their humpback whale and dolphin discoveries. Through their internship program, they provide opportunities for Mexican marine biology students to develop professional skills as scientists and teach them to share their passion for marine wildlife effectively to the public. Their educational programs include teaching strategy support for science teachers, a US-Mexico cultural exchange between high school science students, presentations, fundraisers, movie making and film nights, whale adoption ceremonies, radio broadcasts and field trips.
Their capacity building includes in-the-field training, the development and distribution of marine wildlife guides and best-practices material, in-depth safe whale watch workshops, business and marketing strategy and planning support, English classes and disentanglement support. They also provide opportunities for newly trained ecotour guides to practice their trade with visitors who come through Oceanic Society or independently, as a result of reading about their work and the rich, little known regional biodiversity.
WGRP believes in order for an improvement in marine conservation to occur, the entire community must be invested in and motivated to participate in its protection. For this reason, the team lives with host families in Barra de Potosí where they work, learn from and support the well-being of the entire resident community – men and women, young and old, foreign and national – and create opportunities for them to connect more deeply with nature and benefit as a result of their stewardship.
”If You See Something, Say Something”
If you spot a whale, contact the team and tell them: 1.) How many whales you see, 2.) how you detected them (blow, splash, body part), 3.) where you saw them (with as much precision as possible), 4.) the date and time when you first spotted them, 5.) which direction they were headed 5.) what they were doing; was it a mother with a calf, a group of whales, any breaching, fin slapping or tail lobbing? Your contribution will help build a map of habitat use and build our understanding about our local whales. (Send text messages between December– April to 755-127-1583 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
Adopt a Local Whale!
Adopt one of the local whales from our region and you will be supporting the project and be kept up to date on the team’s discoveries of that whale’s travel and events. http://oceanicsociety.org/support_options/adopt_whale
Play Marine Biologist for a Week or a Day
This independent project supports its research, educational programs and local marine naturalist trainings in part through ecotourism. If you would like to join the scientists and educators on the water as they listen to, photograph and study whales and dolphins, you may want to sign up for a four-hour excursion with a locally trained guide or sign up for an 8-day research expedition and be a part of the research team for a week. Find out more here: http://whalesinmexico.com/expeditions.htm
You can check out their project websites at: