Members of the public help protect threatened whales and dolphins

29 October 2015

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More than 30 years of collecting data on whale and dolphin sightings has just been made publically available, with the aim of helping marine mammal species survive.

After researching the biology of whales and dolphins for over 30 years, the Museum’s senior research scientist Cath Kemper managed to secure a Commonwealth Government grant so that her expertise in marine mammals could be shared not only with academics, environmental communities and marine industries but also, for the first time, citizen scientists.

“In securing the grant we were able to employ a data expert to produce web-friendly records of over 5000 cetacean sightings. These were scientifically validated by the South Australian Museum with data from the South Australian Whale Centre and Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, and share them with the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA),” said Cath.

“We chose to do this because the ALA is a public platform. Going public allows the South Australian Museum to share its expert knowledge with citizen scientists, and for citizens to share their sightings of whales and dolphins with the Museum in return.”

By making use of the eyes and ears of members of the public who come across whales and dolphins, South Australian Museum scientists learn more about the behaviour and distribution of common and threatened species.

“We want to know where and when cetaceans are seen, especially large species like Southern Right Whales and Blue Whales because this will help us work out their migration routes and when they have their young,” said Cath.

“Now we’ve reached the milestone of uploading our verified records onto the ALA we want to work with members of the public to help the database grow, with the aim of ensuring that all marine mammals live long, healthy lives,” said Cath.

If you see a whale, dolphin or any other marine mammal the South Australian Museum asks you to take photos, audio and video, and make detailed recordings where you made the sighting, and then contact the South Australian Whale Centre at Victor Harbour on 8551 0750 or whalecentre@victor.sa.gov.au. The Whale Centre will work with the South Australian Museum to scientifically identify your sighting and make it available in the ALA online database.