Currently, I am doing my Master’s of Conservation Biology at Columbia University. I am researching arctic marine mammals in the Bering Sea as part of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Arctic Beringia Program (https://programs.wcs.org/northamerica/wild-places/arctic-beringia.aspx). We use underwater microphones (hydrophones) to record the calls of bowhead, humpback, minke, beluga, and killer whales, as well as walruses and bearded seals, as they migrate annually past St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, through the Bering Strait to the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. These animals spend the winter around St. Lawrence Island, breeding and waiting for the ice edge to recede. Once the ice has melted in the spring and summer, the marine mammals move north to rich feeding areas in the frigid arctic ocean.
Along with environmental cues, I am examining what influence daylight has on calling patterns; whether animals are more likely to call during the day or at night. This will help acoustic researchers, especially those aiming to quantify the impacts of climate change on these animals, to target when they deploy their recorders in order to develop the most accurate understanding of when and where animals. This accurate information will then build management policies to protect our oceans and its inhabitants efficiently.
As you can imagine, a lot of my research consists of listening to whale calls for countless hours. I have found the experience awe-inspiring, motivating me to be more ocean-friendly in my daily life. I wanted to share this passion with the public, so I contacted TedEd to see if they were interested in my proposal. Working with the TedEd team was a wonderful opportunity; they helped me hone my idea and transfer hard science into an accessible media for everyone to enjoy. The animators and sound editors (who collaborated with me directly to ensure all sounds in the video are from the correct species) produced a beautiful piece at the junction of science and art that I could not be more impressed by and proud of.
Within the first 24 hours of being live, the video has been viewed by over 50,000 people around the globe. Our international community has shown their interest in engaging with marine mammals, and this video has given them an opportunity to learn more about our delicate but vast oceans. Science communication and educational outreach will lead to a future of ocean-minded, international-oriented citizens, and I am pleased to contribute my video and my research to this endeavour!