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:
And how to classify belugas by 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!