Summer devoid of tourism traffic spurred humpback whale study

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Southeast waters devoid of cruise ship and other tourism-related traffic this year gave rise to a study on humpback whales.

    Dr.  Heidi Pearson,  associate professor of Marine Biology Arts and Sciences at UAS, said on Action Line that the school is collaborating on the project with colleagues from NOAA-Fisheries and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

    "The goal is to establish baseline measurements of humpback whales' health and behavior during this past summer where we had a very unusual year with low tourism in the Juneau area which met we had a much reduced level of vessel traffic."

    Dr. Pearson said on Action Line that they wrapped up their field season about a month ago.  "What we did is we collected biopsy samples of blubber from humpback whales and we're now in the process of assessing those samples to what the stress levels are in the whales."

    She called it a really unique opportunity to see what's going on with these whales in what think may have been a less stressful environment.

    In addition, Dr. Pearson says they are collaborating with a partner from Cornell University on the acoustic part of the study.  With less vehicle traffic, whales probably had an easier time communicating among themselves.


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