Satellite Tagging Project
Study Guide
Blue Whale

Satellite Tagging Project Study Guide

by Michael Williamson

Background Information

Why use satellite tags?

Satellite tagging is a relatively new method in the study of organisms in their own habitat.

Why use satellite tags to study whales?

If all whaling stopped, all fishing stopped, all commercial ship traffic stopped, and all recreational boating stopped, the whale populations, in all likelihood, would not return to their pre-whaling numbers.
When an organism is removed from the ecosystem in which it lived other organisms assume their niche in the food chain so the first species would not have the food available to replace their numbers.
In reality, all commercial use of the oceans will not stop, so in order to make more knowledgeable decisions on the use of the shared oceans, knowledge of the organisms which use the environment must be better understood.
If we can determine where the whales travel, where they feed, and where they give birth, more informed decisions can be made about how humans use those same areas. If humans have accurate information then more knowledgeable decisions can be made about the use of the shared habitats. Fishing management decisions can be made about where and when to fish to minimized negative interaction. War games can be moved from critical habitats for whales. Commercial uses of the habitats can be managed with respect to the shared habitats.
With the use of satellite tags, humans may gain very important insights into the habitat use, range of movements, and return tenacity, etc. This will give humans more insights into the natural history of the whales and will enable more intelligent and meaningful decisions which will increase the potential for recovery and for an improved existence in the shared marine environments around the world.

Study Guide Questions


The Research:

  • How far do the whales appear to travel in a day? a week? a month?
  • Why are the whales located in this area?
  • What information is missing?
  • What conclusions can you reach about the whales movements using this data?
  • What conclusions can you NOT reach about the whales movements using this data?
  • Are satellite positions always accurate? Why or why not?
  • What precautions must you take as a researcher to assure accuracy?
  • The Blue Whale:

  • How large is the largest recorded blue whale?
  • How large is a blue whale calf at birth?
  • What type of whale is a blue whale? (i.e. toothed or baleen)
  • How large is the heart of a blue whale?
  • How many blue whales are left in the world? How do "we" know?
  • What are the characteristics of blue whales? (How can you tell a whale is a blue whale?)
  • How are blue whale individuals identified? (What characteristics are used?)
  • Bibliography: See the bibliographies in the Educational Resources menu item.

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