Watching Our Water Ways

Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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A chance to learn about the ‘Ways of Whales’

January 11th, 2011 by cdunagan

We’ve talked a bit lately on this blog about research involving orcas and other whales. For that reason, I’d like to call your attention to the annual Ways of Whales workshop, where you can meet some of the region’s leading cetacean scientists.

Sponsored by Orca Network, the all-day event will be Saturday, Jan. 29, at Coupeville Middle School on Whidbey Island.

This year’s lineup of speakers includes:

  • John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research, whose studies of blue, gray and humpback whales have taken him up and down the entire West Coast. He may also talk about some of the rare species visiting Puget Sound lately, including a bottlenose dolphin hanging out near Olympia.
  • Brad Hanson of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, who has proposed using satellite tagging to track the Southern Resident killer whales in the Pacific Ocean. Brad has led much of the research on these whales that frequent Puget Sound, including studies of their diet.
  • Monika Wieland, photographer, naturalist and researcher, will talk about the calls that Southern Residents make, their unique dialect that distinguishes them from other orca clans, and how they use their language.
  • Suzanne Chisholm, writer and filmmaker, documented the story of Luna, the young Southern Resident orca who made friends with people in Nootka Sound. Suzanne also has can talk about Japan’s dolphin drive in Taiji and a recently discovered orphan killer whale named Morgan.
  • Carol Ray, former SeaWorld trainer, will be on hand to describe what marine parks are like behind the scenes and offer insights into Tillikum, who killed his trainer during a show at SeaWorld Orlando.

The cost of the workshop is $25, with lunch available for an additional $10 if you register by Jan. 25. After expenses, proceeds will be used to maintain Orca Network’s whale-sighting program. Sign up by going to a Orca Network’s registration page.

Speaking of whales and dolphins, a new magazine has been launched by the newly formed Dolphin and Whale Society, not to be confused with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

The first issue of the quarterly Dolphin and Whale Magazine is available online, with future access free to members who pay an annual $25 fee.

Editor Randall Eaton says the magazine will feature research, personal stories, news, videos, photos, art, poetry and myths that speak to the human connection with cetaceans across time, space and cultures.

The first issue includes researcher Jodi Smith’s personal account of 19 killer whales that visited Dyes Inlet between Bremerton and Silverdale during the fall of 1997. Jodi, along with Kelley Balcomb-Bartok, played a role in helping the whales leave the inlet after they had turned back numerous times over the preceding month. Her story is titled “Day 30.”

Jodi’s account is personal to me, because I spent a good deal of time with Jodi and Kelley while the whales were here. They were among numerous researchers who helped me understand for the first time the unique society occupied by these highly intelligent creatures. For the 10th anniversary of the visit, I wrote a two-part series about the event, updated with additional stories, graphics and videos. Check out “The Dyes Inlet Whales — 10 Years Later.”

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2 Responses to “A chance to learn about the ‘Ways of Whales’”

  1. John Reinke Says:

    Thanks for publishing information about the Ways of Whales conference on January 29. Mention is made of the possibility of tagging local killer whales for tracking by satellite for a research study.

    I highly recommend you read Ken Balcomb’s letter to the NMFS Permit Chief, in opposition to this proposal. Ken’s letter is extremely well written and includes photographs that support his point of view.

    You can read the letter online at:

  2. cdunagan Says:

    John and all:

    Please check out my interview with Ken on this subject, along with links to his and other letters in the Dec. 28 Water Ways.

    I first broke this story Dec. 5 in the Kitsap Sun, followed with a Water Ways piece on Dec. 8.

    As I expected, this has become a controversial issue. I have tried my best to represent both sides. Thanks for your interest in this hot topic.

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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist