An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

Humpbacks on the move

Humpback whales have started their southern migration and can be spotted off the west and east coast. ClimateWatch Marine is collaborating with Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) on their Community Whale Monitoring Initiative: a pilot study funded by Woodside using Citizen Science and volunteers to capture data on whale sightings in order to get a better picture of whale movements and engage the community with these amazing migratory marine species.


Humpback breaching courtesy Centre for Whale Research



"The Initiative is a great way to test the different methods of recording data, such as the ClimateWatch App." said Prue Simmons, CVA's Wild Futures National Coordinator. "Data recording tools such as the Climatewatch App enable volunteers to easily record their sightings and the immediate accessibility of the app on smart phones means that we don’t miss any ad hoc sightings!"


Andy Donnelly from EnviroPartner is leading teams of CVA volunteers who are collecting whale migration data from Cape Solander and Clovelly Headland in Sydney. "We are working towards developing a clear protocol that gives good data to scientists, works for volunteers in the field and provides an enjoyable experience. So far we have had great feedback all round"


Dyanne Kruger, is one of the volunteers recording sightings. "This is my first time in Australia and I didnt want to do the normal tourist thing. I am an avid bird watcher and want to contribute to science."


Dyanne Kruger (photo by Andy Donnelly)


"Spotting whales when they are breaching is just incredible" said Dyanne. "I am familiar with orcas, but this my first time seeing humpbacks."


For Matt Burke, whale watching was a great way to spend a spring afternoon. "I spent the morning weeding in Centennial Park. But seeing a dozen whalesthis afternoon has been a real highlight"


Matt Burke (Photo by Andy Donnelly)


By August the majority of whales have begun to migrate south along both coasts and by November have left Australian waters, heading back to the Antarctic. The exact timing of migration can vary from year-to-year and may be related to food supplies in the Antarctic.


"The Initiative is rolling out throughout the Sydney coastline in 2012 and already teams of volunteers are spotting whales in places and numbers they were not expecting" said Prue Simmons. "The seasons and sightings can vary but one team was lucky enough to get a great view of a mother and calf during their surveys."


CVA's Community Whale Monitoring Initiative is a great way for people to get involved in ClimateWatch and marine species research. As the program expands to more localities across Australia in subsequent years, it will provide excellent opportunities for the community to help to increase the reach of existing monitoring so that we can build a better picture of the health of our coastal marine environment.