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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Southern Resident Killer Whale Transboundary Naturalist Workshop

I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week in Port Townsend, WA at the Transboundary Naturalist Workshop that focused on the Southern Resident killer whales. The most amazing part to me was having so many of the local whale folks all in the same room - something that hasn't happened before, in part because of the difficulty of coordinating people in what really is a transboundary ecosystem covering islands and mainland, US and Canada.

It was an honor to have many of the true "whale gurus" all there at once, like Ken Balcomb, Rich Osborne, and John Ford. In addition to these true pioneers in the field, there were representatives from all the major regional whale watching companies, including owners/operators/drivers as well as naturalists from places like Anacortes, the San Juan Islands, Victoria, Sooke, and Vancouver, BC. Many current researchers in the field were present, from organizations such the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the University of Washington. Finally, many enforcement officials were present as well, from Soundwatch and Straitwatch to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It was truly a great opportunity to network, put faces with names and voices we usually hear only over marine radio, and engage in some great discussions.

The conference was held at Fort Worden State Park, and we stayed the night dormortories built in 1904 for soldiers stationed at the fort. While it proved difficult for everyone to find their rooms since doors between every floor and wing were locked (you had to find the proper outside entrance to your wing, without a map of room numbers), once I found my room it had a great water view looking over Admiralty Inlet:

It will take a bit to process all of the information and connections that were made at the conference. In reality, I didn't learn that much new about the whales, but that's since I have been fortunate enough to hear many of these speakers present their work before, and new things I did learn were really cool. Regardless, it all really gets you thinking, and I'll definitely share some of the cool things that were talked about over the next couple days. I also had a chance in the evening to present to an interested audience about the Salish Sea Association of Marine Naturalists, and bring in more members to get involved in our projects as we move forward over the next year.

Getting back to San Juan Island proved difficult on Tuesday. High winds closed down the Port Townsend-Keystone ferry route for much of the day, which was my connection to get back to the Anacortes-Friday Harbor ferry. I was originally planning to leave a bit early and get back in time to play hockey last night, but when that wasn't going to happen I started thinking about alternative routes driving further south on the Olympic Peninsula to cross over to the mainland - a longer drive, but something that would get me home. Luckily the ferry route opened up again and I was able to take the ferry to Keystone after the conference was over, although it was a very rocky, wavy ride.

I was concerned for those who had shuttled over on whale watch boats from places like Victoria and Friday Harbor. While it was certainly safe for them to go, I had their comfort in mind when after the conference I looked out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca and saw all the white caps in the photo below. I offered people rides which they declined, and I guess they regretted it as they had to put with 12 foot seas, sea sickness, and some of the worst conditions most of them have boated in. I'm so glad I wasn't on those boats!!

While I was concerned about being able to make it home, all the travel ended up going smoothly. I had time to check out the Point Wilson Lighthouse at the State Park before heading over to catch my first ferry:

Like I said, after two days of lectures I know I felt a little spacey afterwards as my brain tried to catch up and process all the great information. I will definitely be sharing some great info in the next couple of days, so check back for that!


juliana said...

We stayed in those dorms for Evo-WIBO. I think it took half an hour for about 10 of us to all find our rooms. I must have had a room on the same side of that building. That view looks awfully familiar.

Monika said...

JMA - Haha, we probably had the same room. Crazy facility to stay in but sure a great location!