General, All Grades, Williamson

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Date: Wed, 29 May 1996 09:49:25 -0400

WhaleNet Sample & Start-up Activities
Michael Williamson
* WhaleNet has expanded into an international interdisciplinary teaching
resource from its early beginnings as a location for up-loading and
down-loading whale watch data and related information. Educators now use
WhaleNet files and information for enhancing geography, math, science,
reading, writing, earth science, problem solving, and many other subject
* Some WhaleNet files are still in the WhaleNet Bulletin Board. I suggest
capturing the entire directory and printing a hard copy to use as an index to
review before logging on. This will make use of WhaleNet and computer time
more efficient for you and your class. Please keep checking in on WhaleNet
for additions and changes in the program.
* Below are some ideas to start you on your way into the WhaleNet expedition.

Activity 1: Navigation

 Simple navigation methods can be used to involve mathematics. Using
latitude and longitude, or a system of navigation called LORAN (Long Range
Aid to Navigation) the ship's position can be plotted very accurately on a
navigation chart. The ship's track can be plotted on a chart by taking a
position check or fix periodically by recording the time and ship's Lat/Long
coordinates. Prior to your trip laminate your chart or cover it with clear
contact paper. The students can use water soluble fine tip markers to plot
the fixes and course as the day progresses. Different colors can be used to
indicate different species sightings, etc. The chart can be reused when the
fixes are washed off. (Use Lat/Long if possible.)

 With the plot of the ship's course a number of activities can be undertaken.
 Plot the vessel's research track and calculate: the distance covered, the
rate of the vessel's travel from point to point (D=R*T, " a minute's a mile
the world around"), the depth of water at various points can be found by
checking the depth on the chart at the point of the fix, and the topography
of the research track can be observed (see bathymetry below).

 Students can plot the track of the boat by recording the Lat/Long
coordinates at preset time intervals, i.e. every 15 minutes and/or at every
sighting of marine mammals, and then plotting these points (taking a fix) on
a chart of the area. (Charts are available for $13.00 or a bathymetric
(fishing) chart for $4.50 through boat yards or boating magazines. The
bathymetric chart gives a better visualization of the bottom topography and
may be more helpful if a study of bottom topography is planned. The
bathymetric chart also has some LORAN lines on it, but not as many as the
navigation chart. NOTE: you only need the Lat/Long or two LORAN coordinates
to plot a position.)

 Using the research track, students should note locations, depths,
topography, etc. where marine mammals are observed along with the behavior
and activity observed.

Activity 2: Water Testing

 Water testing is an important part of oceanography and whale research.
 Activities such as testing the water temperature, density and salinity are
commonly measured qualities of sea water. To collect a water sample notify
crew members, wait until the boat STOPS COMPLETELY, drop a bucket with a line
attached to the handle overboard and bring up a water sample. Use a
thermometer to measure the temperature, and a hydrometer to measure the
density. With the density and temperature, the salinity can be determined
using temp/density/salinity charts or graphs.

 The color of the water, sea state (wave height), wind velocity and
direction, and air temperature are also important bits of information to the
researcher. This information is listed on the data sheet.

Activity 3: Plankton Tow and Analysis

 A plankton tow and analysis explains a great deal about why the whales are
where they are. The plankton can be examined with hand lenses or
microscopes, and depending on the class age various degrees of plankton
analysis can be conducted. Data on density of plankton, identification of
plankton types, etc. can be included.

 A discussion and development of food chains and food webs would be a natural
follow-up to the plankton tow. Phytoplankton (plants) and zoo-plankton
(animals) can be observed under normal conditions. If only one plankton net
can be purchased choose a phytoplankton net. It collects both plant and
animal plankton.

Activity 4: Data Collection

 Data collection should be made on: the location of the observation, the
species observed, the number of each species, behavior of the organism, and
any other information that might be important.
 Data sheets should be photocopied from the one included in advance of the
trips and research groups can be assigned in any manner appropriate to the
class. Groups can either be assigned to take data for the class or groups
can be assigned to take data throughout the trip. It would be suggested that
only one person at a time be assigned to record the position coordinates
(Lat/Long) in the pilot house, and the captain should be contacted and talked
with about the best procedure prior to the trip. Some vessels have Lat/Long
or LORAN receivers in the public cabin, inquire at the time you make your

 For more class involvement, additional data can be collected on the
pollution (floating trash) and bird sightings. The Pollution Data Table
should include time sighted, location, type of trash, amount of trash,
composition of trash, etc. The data of the times sighted can be coordinated
with the position recordings to approximate the location of the trash
sightings. Totals of the trash sightings should be included after the whale
sighting information. Bird sightings can also be recorded in a similar
fashion. There is a bird sighting bulletin board in EnviroNet, see the
EnviroNet booklet for procedures to input bird data.

Activity 5: Photo-Identification of Whales

 Photo-identification photographs of humpback whales taken on the cruise
should be recorded as follows: date, location, photo taken by whom, what roll
number of film (number each roll of film with the initials of the
photographer & roll number such as: JMW/95-001), and what number on the roll.
 The photographs can be used later to identify the whale using a humpback
whale catalogue or they can be mailed to Allied Whale, College of the
Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine to be entered into the Humpback Whale Catalogue
data base.

Activity 6: Mathematics

 Plot the complete research track on a chart. How many miles did the trip
cover? What was the average speed of the boat from fix to fix, for the
entire trip? What was the heading (compass direction) on each leg of the
trip? How many sighting were made for each hour of the trip? (This is the
"catch effort" used by whalers to compare the efficiency of a trip.) This
method can also be used to compare different trips, on different days,
locations, boats, etc.

Activity 7: Bathymetry

 Using graph paper placed along each leg of the research track the bottom
topography can be plotted and displayed. Fold a piece of graph paper along a
line about one inch from the edge of the paper. Place the graph paper on the
track line drawn on the chart and using a predetermined scale for depth on
the vertical axis, plot the depth of the bottom on the (vertical) Y-axis vs.
appropriate/convenient points on the (horizontal) X-axis. Connect the strip
profiles for each leg of the cruise together to show the bottom topography of
the entire trip.

 Return to the bottom topography profile and note where on the surface what
species were sighted and what the behavior observed was, i.e. feeding,
logging, traveling, etc. Is there a pattern of behavior of the whales or the
location of the whales to the bottom topography? Are sightings usually made
over a specific type of bottom? Analyze the data from your trip.

Activity 8: Topographic Model of the Bottom
 Construct a model of Stellwagen Bank. Draw lines perpendicular to the ridge
line of the bank about one inch apart. Have students use graph paper to make
a profile of the bottom on each line. Glue the graph paper to pieces of
cardboard and cut out the profiles. Line the cardboard profiles up one inch
apart in clay or similar substance to hold up the cardboard, and cover with
damp cloth or paper. Press the cloth or paper down gently to the contour of
the cardboard, allow to dry, and spray with paint and allow to dry. Use your

Activity 9: Analysis of Whale Watch Data

 Suggestions for analysis: (1) compare "catch efforts" (number of sightings
of a species for each hour on the whale watch) for different days, different
species, etc.; (2) compare the range of behaviors of species on a given day;
(3) compare data for Jeffrey's Ledge and Stellwagen Bank on a given day or
week; (4) compare numbers of cow/calf pairs on given days; (5) calculate the
number of whales with killer whale scars; (6) compare the depths where the
different species were observed; (7) compare where most of the sightings
were, on the bank or ledge, over the deep water, etc. or (8) compare numbers
of sightings vs. sea state, cloud cover, wind velocity, etc.

Activity 10: Analysis of Marine Pollution
 Collect data on pollution and floating debris by using a data sheet similar
to the marine mammal data sheet, but substitute Object for Species and
Composition for Grouping. Up-load the data using the same procedure as for
the marine mammals but use Pollution Data in place of Data in the subject
header. We will also be collecting Coast Sweep data in the future.

Activity 11: Analysis of Pelagic Birds

 Collect data on pelagic birds by using a data sheet similar to the marine
mammal data sheet. Up-load the information by substituting Bird Data in the
subject header.
Received on Wed May 29 1996 - 09:49:35 EDT

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