Mathematics in Science and Research

Satellite Tagging Observation Program - STOP

Plotting the Travels of "Metompkin" Unit

Right Whale

WhaleNet at http://whale.wheelock.edu

WhaleNet will coordinate the Satellite Tagging Observation Program - STOP. The goal of this phase of the project is to enable students to participate with scientists in unique research using advanced technologies.

Students and educators can work in conjunction with international research organizations such as the Mingan Island Cetacean Study in Longue Pointe de Mingan, Quebec; the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts;and Allied Whale at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, in a unique program using advanced satellite technology and telecommunications to monitor and research the actual migration patterns and movements of selected species of whales throughout the oceans of the world. Students and educators can access and use data and information from this program on a continuing basis through WhaleNet.

The tags will make it possible to track the whales electronically, thus enabling researchers to answer questions about whale movements and migrations that have never been resolved satisfactorily. For example, we will work with: Scott Kraus and the Pelagic Research Lab of the New England Aquarium to investigate the movements of rare North Atlantic Right Whales, and Arctic Seals; Richard Sears, executive Director of the Mingan Island Cetacean Study, to find where Blue Whales and Fin Whales go in the winter in hopes of finding their calving grounds; and, Allied Whale of the College of the Atlantic to try to determine the migratory routes of the Humpback Whale to and from its calving grounds.

The answers to these questions are not known, and students will be able to participate in these innovative investigations from their classrooms via telecommunications.

The STOP Program

As WhaleNet progresses we will have satellite tags on right whales, blue whales, humpback whales, fin whales, seals, and possibly bowhead whales. We plan to begin this spring with tags on Arctic seals that will be released from the New England Aquarium. We hope that you will participate and check back on a regular basis.

- the Whale Master (whalemaster1@whale.wheelock.edu)

Satellite Tagging Schedule

WhaleNet will be making available information from satellites each year. Found in the table below are satellite fixes of a Northern Right Whale named "Metompkin" that became entangled in fishing equipment off the coast of Georgia. A radio tag was first attached to the whale which was later replaced with a satellite tag by the research group of the New England Aquarium.

WhaleNet's Satellite Tagging Observation Program
Educational Concepts and Skills

Mathematical concepts include:

  • analysis of data
  • average
  • estimation
  • measurements
  • scales of measurement
  • evaluate outcomes
  • graphic representations of information
  • use real world examples
  • investigate open-ended problems

    Other skills and concepts:

  • geography
  • use of maps/charts
  • bathymetry
  • compass use
  • environmental relationships

    Table 1: "Metompkin's" Route

    Follow "Metompkin's" Route:
    Jan 6 '96: 30 N., 81 W.
    Jan 11 '96: 29 N., 81 W.
    Jan 15 '96: 30 N., 81 W.
    Jan 17 '96: 29 N., 80 W.
    Jan 19 '96: 30 N., 81 W.
    Jan 20 '96: 31 N., 81 W.
    Jan 21 '96: 31 N., 80 W.
    Jan 22 '96: 31 N., 80 W.
    Jan 23 '96: 32 N., 79 W.
    Jan 24 '96: 32 N., 79 W.
    Jan 30 '96: 34 N., 75 W.
    Feb. 3 '96: 36 N., 71 W.

    Additional Location Data Points - Data Table 2
    Other sightings of "Metompkin" and family.

    "Metompkin" On-line Story by Karen Smyth
    "Metompkin Research Account" by Chris Slay
    "Metompkin" Catalog Page

    Map to plot data
    Index of Maps

    Data from this and other satellite tagging projects is available from WhaleNet at http://whale.wheelock.edu

    On a navigation chart of the area plot the fixes from the satellite tag (table 1).
    Given the Satellite tag fixes in Table 1 above,
    1. In what general direction is the whale traveling?

    Is the direction consistent?
    2. How far does it travel in a day? each day? in an average day?
    3. How far has it traveled since it was first tagged until the most recent sighting?
    4. What is its approximate rate of travel?
    5. In what depth of water is the whale traveling?

    What is the scale for depth on this chart? (feet, meters. fathoms)
    6. Does the whale seem to prefer a specific depth of water?
    7. What is the difference between true north and magnetic north on a chart?
    8. Why isn't magnetic north and true north in the same location?
    9. What is the purpose of the compass rose on a chart?

    Further investigations:

    A. What other observations can you make about the movements of the whale?
    B. What other information about the water might be helpful?
    C. Why is the whale traveling the direction it is?
    D. Why do whales travel north-south different times of the year?

    Data for the Project

    WhatNet Satellite Tagging Observation Program is located on the WhaleNet homepage. http://whale.wheelock.edu


    Word Definition
    anterior front, toward the front of an organism
    baleen whalebone, horny substance that grows from the top of a whale's mouth for food-getting
    barometer an instrument used for measuring atmospheric pressure
    bioluminescence production of light by living things
    blowhole the nose of the whale located on top of the head
    chart a "map" of the ocean used for navigation
    dorsal top area of the whale or dolphin, the back
    extinct no longer existing on the planet as a living organism
    fathom unit of depth equal to six feet
    fixes location given in latitude and longitude or in LORAN coordinates
    flipper the "arm" of the whale, the pectoral fin
    fluke the horizontal tail of the whale or dolphin
    nautical mile a distance equal to one minute of latitude or about 6080 feet or 1,852 meters
    peduncle the area of a whales body between its dorsal fin and the flukes
    plankton drifting organisms, usually microscopic plants or animals
    population the number of a specific species in a given area
    posterior the back or near portion of an organism
    relative humidity the ratio of the amount of water in air to the maximum amount that the air can hold
    rostrum the "top" ot "lid" of the mouth of a baleen whale, part in front of blowhole
    statute mile 5,280 feet
    surface area the the top or outer most boundary of an object
    tags radio device that transmits a signal to a receiver (radio or satellite)
    ventral towards or near the lower surface
    ventral pleats lines of folded flesh that go from the under tip of the mouth to about the navel
    volume the size of a three-dimensial space