My name is Katie Roberts and I teach middle school life science at Hingham Middle School in Hingham, Massachusetts. This summer, as a participant in the 2004 ARMADA project, I had the unique opportunity to work as a marine mammal observer on the NOAA ship McArthur II as a member of the "SPLASH" scientific team. "SPLASH" is an acronym that stands for: Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks, and refers to an international collaborative effort to estimate humpback abundance throughout the Northern Pacific. Under the supervision of our Chief Scientist, Dr. Jay Barlow of the NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center, I spent thirty days at sea working with a team of 15 scientists to survey a transect area extending from Seattle, WA to Kodiak, AK. Marine mammal survey methods included photo ID, biopsy sampling, and use of acoustical arrays.
Participating in the SPLASH cruise allowed me to reconnect to my "past life" before teaching, in which I had worked as a marine biologist, first at the New England Aquarium and then at the Northeastern University Marine Science Center. My past experiences in marine biology have covered a wide-range of interests, most notably my Master's thesis project relating to algal aquaculture in the Gulf of Maine. Although my students enjoyed hearing about my adventures in algae, they were far more impressed at the prospect of hearing first-hand stories of the great leviathans, the cetaceans! Through sharing my experiences on the SPLASH cruise, I hope to convey to my students the interesting challenges posed by field studies, particularly in estimating and quantifying the abundance of a population. More importantly, I hope to convey to my students the pressing need for such research and the necessity for responsible stewardship in protecting threatened and endangered populations.
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