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Be a Beluga Citizen Scientist!

By Alysa McCall, Polar Bears International

We are so excited for the beluga season and we’re sure you are, too. To add to the excitement, you can now help scientists study the beluga whales in the Churchill River estuary while you watch the Beluga Live Cams!

This summer, we will be trying out a pilot Citizen Science project, and if it’s successful it could lead to pretty important beluga research in the years to come.

Scientists have many questions about the belugas in the Churchill River, and the explore.org Underwater Beluga Cam could provide unique insight into the lives of these whales. Dr. Stephen Petersen and Meg Hainstock, researchers from Winnipeg, are trying to learn more about the group dynamics of beluga pods in this region. For example, how many males and females are in each pod, and are pods of a certain composition seen more often in certain areas of the estuary?

By taking regular snapshots on the underwater cam when you get a nice view of a beluga belly (especially towards the tail end), you can help Stephen and Meg identify males and females! Captain Hayley and her crew will be tracking where the boat goes using GPS, so this information and your snapshots will help build a better understanding of beluga’s social structure and their use of the estuary.

Some ways to help you identify male and female belugas:

01 -CS FAQ -male female

02 -CS FAQ -male female example

And how to classify belugas by age:

03 -CS FAQ age

Another way you can help Stephen and Meg is by trying to identify individual whales. This will likely be tricky, but if you see animals with scars or markings take a snapshot and let us know by posting your pics in the comments section! We will then try to find those same whales later in the season and in future years to see how often they return to the same estuary.

Both Meg and Stephen will be following up with a live chat this summer. Until then, Captain Hayley and I can help answer more questions via a live chat or the cam’s chat window throughout the season.

Stay tuned for more details and thanks in advance for your help!

EXPLORE The Complete – Beluga Live Camera Experience

  • Deborah

    Delighted to help out

  • 4meowsmom-MA

    Sounds like fun! I often caught pics of tails but didn’t save them to snapshot not thinking they would be helpful! Will do so now!

  • Debbie Porges-Au

    Alysa we will do our best!

  • Cloud

    So happy to help! :)

  • Brenda Sandefur

    I would love to help out! :)

  • flowerbear

    me, too! – will help if i get an appropriate photo. do we just post the photo on the chat? anything else?

  • Juergen

    question to Dr. Stephen Petersen and Meg Hainstock and Alysa, for your beluga
    sience project, are you interested in pics and films from belugas in
    Churchill River from 2015 and 2014????

    • Stephen Petersen

      Hi Juergen,
      if you have photos of marked individuals from those years with a date we can use them. The photos of beluga underbellys need to be tied to a GPS location so we can’t use previous year’s photos. Thanks though.

      • Juergen

        what you mean with marked belugas?? here the link to my flickr album 2016 , check it out if you can use some pics download all pics you want to use. would be glad when the pics can help your project

        • Stephen Petersen

          I will check it out – marked belugas would be ones that have nicks in their dorsal ridge or fins, scars, wounds, or unique pigmentation patterns. We are hoping to build a catalog of Churchill beluga whales.

          • Juergen

            AH, TY now i understand….great work….

  • Debra Mason

    We are so happy to help these beautiful animals and the scientists who study them.

  • Linda McInnis

    I’d love to help the project. I am a physicist by training with some training in oceanography. I am currently bedridden so I have nothing to do but watch stuff on my iPad. I do quality assurance for medical devices so use me as you need everything from editing to observing to writing up stuff – feel free to assign me something to do and a timeframe.

  • Cathleen Mallett

    Took photos of Belugas in an aquarium & was fascinated with their facial “expressions” & ability to humor themselves by changing the shape of bubbles in their tank, blowing rings etc. I would definitely be interested.

  • Jill Bragdon

    Great project! Starting watching just this AM as I watch the Rio Olympics on TV. Got some pictures and will post the good ones.

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