I have had the opportunity to work on a few different platforms during my brief time as a marine biologist and all of them have their ups and downs; with some I favour over others. In this post I thought I would go into a little detail on the pros and cons of different vessel sizes.
View from a small vessel with a gray whale off the bow.
From small vessels which vary between little “tinnys” to high powered ribs you are close to the water level and therefore closer to your species of study.
Using small vessels you can more easily manoeuvre in your study area and conduct focal follows, take samples (such as blow or faecal samples) and switch off your engines. They enable you to travel into areas that would otherwise be impossible with something larger including shallow channels, small inlets and waterways between islands.
View from the stern of a small boat.
They are cheaper to run and you don’t need to have a full crew and Captain, it can just be you (with the correct license and permits) alongside whomever you are collecting data with. You will cover a smaller area over a days research and are a slave to how much fuel you can carry and the weather conditions. If your vessel is completely open then you will also be personally impacted by the elements, think soggy trousers and chilly toes!
Example of a large research vessel.
From large vessels you are on a much higher platform. You can see a greater distance and can usually travel a lot further off shore, over a longer time period and in more adverse weather conditions. DIVE IN DEEPER HERE
Think about it, you are at a party and trying to talk to someone in your group and you’re having to raise your voice as the music gets louder and the party gets more raucous. Soon you are struggling to hear and trying to lip read, conventional communication breaks down. Now imagine that happening nearly everyday of your life…no not the partying…the inability to be able to communicate using your voice. What if you were in different rooms to your friends or family then you couldn’t even use sign language…This is what is happening to many marine mammals the world over.
First a little background interlude:
The ocean is inherently noisy, from crashing waves to cracking ice, however due to an increased human presence on the ocean over the last fifty years the amount of anthropogenic noise pollution has significantly increased and in some places surpassed that of natural sources. This anthropogenic noise comes from shipping traffic (transporting produce, cargo and natural resources) and also noise that is a result of ocean exploration such as seismic activity and sonar. This noise pollution has become so prevalent and increased over such a short time that the International Maritime Organisation added commercial shipping noise and its impacts on marine life to its Marne Environment Protection Committee work programme back in 2008. DIVE IN DEEPER HERE
A book I loved reading this summer and have not shut up about to anyone who will or won’t listen is “Listening To Whales: What The Orcas Have Taught Us” by Alexandra Morton. The book is about Alexandra’s life from when she decided she wanted to work with marine mammals, through to her work on killer whales and their habitat. It is both a fascinating insight into the killer whales in Northern British Columbia and the early days of research on this population. As well as the fascinating and beautiful personal and scientific journey Alexandra went on from a whaleless New England town across the country and then north to the ruggedly beautiful and, unforgiving Pacific Northwest region.