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Midwinter is the time of year that our team starts to look forward to being back on the water… listening. That opportunity for our young organization to move forward to another field season, however, exists because of the year we are leaving behind and the support that you showed us in 2021. Quite a lot has happened since we last reached out to you (or if you’re a new subscriber, welcome!). We are excited to share our recent accomplishments, new partnerships, and upcoming research plans – read on!
An impactful gift…
In August, we received a $100,000 gift in support our Alaskan Humpback Whale Research Program. The backstory on this is a testament to the relationship between art and science. Thanks to filmmaker (and Sound Science board member) Drew Xanthopoulos, our story was shared with the world on AppleTV+ in the documentary film Fathom. After seeing the film, Sound Science Director Michelle Fournet received an e-mail: “What are your plans for decoding the rest of the language? How will you perceive the world like the whale?” We believe these are important questions, and our donor did as well. This gift has enabled our team to plan a 2022 field season to dive deeper into understanding the acoustic communication of humpback whales. This summer, we will be back in Southeast Alaska building on the playback work featured in Fathom, and ultimately increasing the knowledge and protection of these animals. We also have been able to purchase much needed equipment, secure a field site, and ensure equitable wages for our researchers and technicians. The large majority of opportunities to gain experience in the marine sciences are unpaid (and in marine mammal science, interns often pay for the experience). This disproportionately excludes individuals who lack the means to volunteer their time and narrows the opportunities for growth and change in our field. As an organization committed to shifting the culture of science toward justice and equity, it feels appropriate to follow through on our promise to provide stipends for our researchers and students and create opportunities for those that don’t have them. We are so grateful to our donors (all of you) for making it possible.
On the topic of our upcoming field season, we are excited to announce a partnership with the Five Finger Lighthouse Society for the use of their facilities as the home base of our research in 2022. The Five Finger Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse in Southeast Alaska and not far from our previous field site in Hobart Bay. By utilizing this location, Sound Science has 1) easy access to the water so we can be out on the boat and collecting data quickly, 2) the ability to survey from a land-based elevated platform, giving us a birds-eye view of the humpback whales in the area, and 3) a safe and dry place to sleep, which is a change of pace from our previous summers spent camping (we still love our tents, but beds will be a nice upgrade). We are thrilled to spend a month at the Lighthouse this summer collecting data!
A critical component to our fieldwork
If you have followed our story since the beginning, or if you watched our last field season unfold in the film Fathom, you may know that we require a boat to run experiments and collect data. As of last year, we did not have a boat, leaving us with feelings of uncertainty about future fieldwork. However, thanks to a collaboration with American Queen Voyages, Sound Science is receiving an 18-foot soft hull inflatable boat to facilitate our research. When we’re not in the field, three of our team members will spend time on their pocket cruiser, the Ocean Victory, educating cruise-goers about the science we do and the importance of protecting our natural world.
Fantastic partnerships, generous donations, and the dedication of Sound Science team members are fueling our upcoming field season. We can’t wait to share the experience and the data with you. We will be documenting the field season via our social media, so if you haven’t already, please take the time to follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Prepare for beautiful photos of our field site and the local wildlife, as well as some behind-the-scenes of what it takes to do marine research!
Thank you so much for your interest in Sound Science. We’re grateful to be back in the field this summer and, with your continued support, many summers to come. If you’d like to contribute towards the longevity of our organization, consider making a donation by clicking the button below.
Leanna P. Matthews, Ph.D.
Sound Science Research Collective