2020 saw a record number of enrollments in Marine Megafauna; Sentinels of the Sea and we worked hard to ensure that the all-time favourite whale research field trip with SeaWorld Gold Coast and the Southern Ocean Persistent Organic Pollutants Program (SOPOPP) remained on offer, despite the added challenges of COVID-19.
Our students were treated to some spectacular days on the water and the whales did not disappoint with three highly inquisitive individuals circling the two SeaWorld vessels for over an hour on the first day. These up-close encounters provide invaluable context to course lecture content, which includes baleen whale ecophysiology, Polar Climate Change and the work of the Humpback Whale Sentinel Program (HWSP).
They also provide an opportunity for students to familiarise themselves with the collection of observational research data e.g. pod composition, behaviour and social interactions between individuals and pods. Students were further challenged to try their hand at capturing perfect fluke shots for ID cataloging with Happy Whale. With over 30,000 individuals estimated to make up the east coast of Australia migrating population, every ID counts!