Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

Hello it’s Lisa, your scientst, from Horta, not to be confused with Alisa!

I am going a bit stir crazy after six months of being stuck on land. I am looking forward to the expedition in a couple of weeks. There have already been sightings of baleen and sperm whales from the lookouts. We aim to get identification photographs of blue, fin, sei and humpback whales as they migrate past the islands. Last year we had 2 blue whales that had been seen in previous years, so we will be looking to build on that this year. We have also had two humpback whales match to animals seen in the Cape Verde Islands! This year I will also be collaborating with a scientist in Bermuda, so widening the scope for possible matches. And then we have our “regular” sperm whales. They can keep us very busy at sea sometimes if we come across a large group. We will be taking photographs of their flukes and matching them to the catalogue that I keep of animals seen elsewhere in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. It will be nice to see some old friends that have been sighted before and also some new ones passing by the Azores for the first time. If we are lucky we may find a new match of a male to Norway or another female that has been to the Canaries in addition to animals seen in previous years in the Azores. If there are no whales around, we are always on the lookout for dolphins or turtles. Bottlenose & Risso’s dolphin are also target species for photo-identification, while common and striped are always a joy to watch if they choose to bowride with the boat. We also try to catch and tag loggerhead turtles for the joint University of the Azores/University of Florida turtle programme.

While on the boat, you will all have jobs to do. Remember that this is not just a whale watching holiday! Someone records data for all the cetacean sightings; another job will be to take ID photos of target species with the expedition camera, as well as any nice people/scenic photos during the day. A team member keeps the log for the boat. A couple of people each day will be responsible for filling in POPA paperwork (I’ll explain what POPA stands for when you get here). We are the only non-fishing boat that participates in this project, collecting data on random sightings of cetaceans as well as turtle and bird surveys. And of course don’t forget the most important jobs of all – the observers. A couple of you will be lookouts, trying to spot the animals at sea! It is not easy to spot whales and dolphins at sea, but you will get better at it as the expedition goes along. There will be a couple of days for a little bit of R&R around the island as well as data entry at base. Photos of Risso’s dolphin from previous years are on the computers at the base for you to crop and match if you have spare time (for example during foul wheather days when we can’t go out on the boat). Other ongoing project is entering data from previous year’s logbooks & data sheets.

At the end of your slot, you may need a holiday to recover!

See you all soon!

Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago

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