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Welcome to our first blues news!
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We are so excited to be offering this regular update to you and trust that our news will help shake off some winter blues!

It is our aim to deliver a quarterly newsletter to friends we have met in our travels – at events and presentations. You are receiving this because you have registered your interest in keeping in touch with us at some point. Of course, please let us know if you wish to unsubscribe.

Although the 2015-16 Blue Whale season is over, there is always a lot happening at Blue Whale Study.  This newsletter will give you a summary of what the team has been up to.  

We hope you enjoy this update and keep in touch.

Warm regards

Pete Gill
CEO/Senior Research Scientist

Distinct pigment patterns on the flanks of a blue whale 
Photo-ID and Catalogue Project
In 2015 we received funding from Winnifred Violet Scott Charitable Trust, which has enabled us to carry out aerial surveys, boat-based photo-identification (Photo-ID) activities and upgrade our Photo-ID catalogue of blue whales we have identified over the years.  Since 1998, photo-ID has been a central part of our research. In essence, we photograph unique pigment patterns on the whales’ flanks (see above), for later comparison (‘resights’) with other seasons and other areas. From this we can learn about blue whales’ movements, life histories (e.g. calving intervals), associations between individuals, population status, and health status. We now have nearly 200 individuals in our catalogue.

We are pleased to have engaged our colleague, photographic archivist Debra Glasgow to review and revise our Photo-ID Catalogue.  Deb’s work will make it easier to enter sightings data and match against previously existing images.  This work is nearly complete, all that remains is to get out to sea and collect more photo-ID images! For more information go to our Photo ID information page on our website.

Contracted Surveys 

During the 2015-16 season we were contracted to conduct three large-scale aerial surveys in the Great Australian Bight for the South Australian Government. Oil giant BP provided funding to the SA Government to fill knowledge gaps in response to concerns about their plans to drill for hydrocarbons in deep water south of the Head of Bight. These surveys once again highlighted the biodiversity of the region, and also the variability in cetacean occurrence, with few sightings on two of the three surveys. This is contract work and the results are ‘business in confidence’. See Australian Bight Research Program web page for more information.

2014 Marine Science Youth Program crew

Marine Science Youth Mentoring Program
With thanks to funding from the Isobel and David Jones Foundation (facilitated by South West Community Foundation) the program is set to resume for the 2016-17 blue whale season.  This program has run for three years previously but unfortunately the 2015-16 season was unfunded.  It is a great boost to have the program up and running again and we are making it a priority to secure the remaining funds required to make the program a total success. 

We welcome any contributions to this fantastic community education program. 

Click HERE to donate.

15 Feb 2016 Aerial Survey Crew - Dr. Peter Gill, Vince Antony and Jasmine Bursic
Blue Whale Surveys in the Bonney Upwelling, 2015-16
During the 2015-16 season we saw the strongest upwelling plume for several years, and sighted numerous surface krill swarms.  Yet during our aerial surveys, and our outings in our research boat, blue whales were very scarce, with none sighted around Portland and low numbers further up the Bonney Upwelling in South Australian waters.

In late February we found 10 blue whales during an aerial survey off the shelf between Port Fairy VIC and Beachport SA. While this was more encouraging than other recent years, it was down on numbers found during many previous years. This survey was funded by the Winifred Violet Scott Charitable Trust.

During late March we flew one more aerial survey, funded by the Klein Family Foundation. This survey found 13 blue whales, most of them off the coast of southeast South Australia. 

It was another quiet season for blue whales in the Bonney Upwelling, suggesting that the whales have been gathering elsewhere where prey is more abundant. Due to lack of funding, this year we were unable to survey the broad continental shelf south of Warrnambool and Port Campbell, where whales have been abundant in some recent years.
We welcome any contributions to our core aerial and boat survey program.
Click HERE to donate. 
Aerial survey results from February 2016
Australian Geographic 
Australian Geographic (AG) July/August 2016 Edition featured a story on blue whales, with a major contribution from Blue Whale Study.  This edition also included a complimentary poster of Australian whales for which Dr Pete Gill was an expert consultant.
Fundraising with AG
Australian Geographic have generously launched a fundraising campaign online and in their retail outlets, appealing for research funds for the Blue Whale Study – see Australian Geographic web page.
News & Media
Blue Whale Study has recently had many media releases picked up by local media and published in the local newspapers.
Read more of our media articles.

Tax Time Savings
BWS has Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status with the Australian Taxation Office.  This means we write receipts for donations which can then be used by the donor to reduce their taxable income.  This is a bonus for our donors who are looking at ways of helping the blue whales and helping their hip pockets!  Click on our media article, Tax Savings Media Release for more info.

Volunteers
We couldn’t survive without all the volunteer hours, which go into the background work at BWS.  Our committee all operate as volunteers and even our staff (Pete and Louise) put in many ‘free’ hours to ensure the longevity and viability of BWS.  We are also building our volunteer team to assist with many other activities.  If you would like to become a BWS Volunteer please send an email or phone us NOW.  We would love to hear from you and bring you into our operating world.

Bec’s Braidwood Event
Talk about incredible volunteer effort!  Thank you so much to Bec Hall of Braidwood NSW for running a magnificent fundraising event and raising $700 for Blue Whale Study.  It is so inspiring to have Bec in our team and her involvement is invaluable.  Bec’s story can be found here: Braidwood Fund Raiser

 
ABOVE: Bec provided a wonderful display of Blue Whale information for her guests.

Donate
We love all our donors and are now making better efforts to ensure that our donors are aware of just how much we do love them!  Every donor receives a gift as a token of our deep appreciation for their care and support of Blue Whale Study.  If you would like to become one of our special donor family members please CLICK HERE

What we did is done - what we do now matters most

South Australia Event
A group of 30 environment volunteers were provided a presentation by Dr. Pete Gill on the wonders of Blue Whales and the Bonney Upwelling.  The event occurred during South-East Safari (13 May 2016) in Robe, South Australia.  This event celebrated the efforts of, and provided training to South Australian coastal environment volunteers. 
Presentation by Dr. Peter Gill

School event
Dr. Gill spoke to marine biology students at the Portland Secondary College in June 2016 on the work of Blue Whale Study and the annual visit by blue whales to feed on krill.  Several students expressed interest in the Researching the Blues mentoring program. 

BioPower
Dr. Gill provided a briefing session for staff of BioPower Systems who are working on a wave energy project near Port Fairy. This type of training is a speciality service, which Dr. Gill provides given his vast experience in spotting blue whales (and other marine life).

Preparing for Upwelling Festival
Louise (our Administration Manager) is looking at ways of improving our information tent at the 2016 Upwelling Festival on Saturday 29 October in Portland.  Development of displays is a big focus and resourcing materials and equipment is a challenge.  Community education on blue whales is a core activity of Blue Whale Study and we love being in the ‘tent’ to let people know about the Upwelling and what it means and how it attracts blue whales to our region.  If you would like to help on the day please let us know otherwise we hope to see you there.

Marine Science Youth Mentoring Program – TOTAL COST $12,000
Takes four students for four days on boat surveys which includes marine safety training and observation skills.

 

Aerial Surveys – TOTAL COST $45,000 ($15,000 per survey)

Three aerial surveys per season needed to monitor the distribution and abundance of blue whales through out the season. The aerial surveys also help us to locate concentrations of whales that we can focus our boat research on. 

 

Boat Surveys – TOTAL COST - $45,000 (10 surveys at $4,500) 

10 boat surveys per season needed to maintain the effort required to grow our photo ID catalogue and to monitor the population of whales by studying individuals.

 

Educational Activities – TOTAL COST - $1,000 per session

These sessions are ad hoc and can involve a variety of elements such as pre planning, travel, presentation time, accommodation expenses and production of educational materials for the session.  

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Blue Whale Study · C/ Post Office · Narrawong, Victoria 3285 · Australia

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