The Whale Wise team collaborates with several institutions, providing the knowledge and resources necessary to conduct marine conservation research and share this work with the public. Whilst our team members are enthusiastic and committed to the cause, we are still young and starting our careers in marine conservation. Therefore, we are grateful to both our local and academic partners, for providing guidance and support throughout the entire process.
Our base outside the field season, the University of Edinburgh (U.K.) provides Whale Wise with resources, funding and expertise. Tom Grove (part of the Whale Wise team) is currently studying a PhD at Edinburgh, working as part of the Changing Oceans Group
(School of Geosciences) and under the supervision of Dr Lea-Anne Henry. Through this, we can benefit from the group’s knowledge in modelling the response of marine life to human activity. More generally, the School of Geosciences has an amazing breadth of expertise in relevant areas such as conservation, social science and drones.
We are also working with the university’s Clinical Research Facility. Specifically, we are using the mass spectrometry core to process and analyse blow samples, measuring the concentration of various hormones and other molecules. As a result, Dr Natalie Homer- director of the mass spectrometry core
– is another supervisor for Tom’s PhD.
University of Iceland
The University of Iceland’s Húsavík Research Centre is fundamental to our current work. Run by Professor Marianne Rasmussen (another supervisor of Tom’s PhD) and Charla Basran, the research centre provides us with accommodation, equipment and whale expertise, having conducted marine mammal research since 2007. Without their support, Whale Wise would not exist today.
Working with the research centre also allows us to join whale watching vessels belonging to North Sailing
, the largest tour operator in Húsavík.
Through the University of Iceland, we use whale-watching vessels belonging to North Sailing as a research platform for behavioural observation. However, this cannot convey the positive impact of North Sailing on our work- without the company’s support, Whale Wise probably wouldn’t exist. We have met many of our closest friends and allies through North Sailing. Watching whales from boats such as Bjössi Sör, Náttfari and Sæborg have provided us with moments of inspiration and have helped us to develop research questions. More than a simple research platforms, North Sailing staff have gone out of their way to help and support us.
This is particularly important for us because, simply, a large part of our research focuses on their potential impacts on whale populations. Instead of doubting our work and trying to distance themselves, North Sailing staff have welcomed our research, engaged with our work and are willing to listen. As people who care about whales just as much as us, they are looking to improve and happy to admit this. We cannot thank them enough.
Húsavík Whale Museum
Hvalasafnið á Húsavík
An important local contact, the Húsavík Whale Museum has supported Whale Wise throughout its first year. We have to be aware that, since the Whale Wise team is not Icelandic, we do not fully understand the cultural context of whales and whaling in Iceland. To start, we don’t speak Icelandic! Therefore, we are fortunate to be able to turn to the whale museum, consisting primarily of Icelandic staff, for advice. We have also used the museum as a venue to hold events for the whale watching community, such as a whale debate night, an evening of documentaries and a celebration of our relationship with whales. We hope to make even more of this connection in the future to engage with local Icelandic communities. The museum has also provided us with part-time employment, thereby helping to fund our work.
In 2019, we were excited to announce our partnership with Arctic Whale
, a collaborative group with a mission of communicating the impact of pollution in the Arctic. Specifically, this year they plan to document plastic pollution in sub-Arctic ecosystems in an expedition from Norway to Iceland. This work is based on three facets: communicate research, build awareness, inspire action. Together, we hope to use whales and other marine life to spread an important message: our ocean ecosystems are threatened and together, we have the power to save them. With extensive media experience and a beautiful sailing vessel (Barba), Arctic Whale provides us with a fantastic opportunity to conduct world-leading research and work with other passionate marine conservationists. As small groups who dream big, collaboration is surely the way forward.