Thursday, July 21, 2011

Visiting Graduate Student

Humpback whale, Flame, July 17, 2011,
off Grand Manan Island
Ashley Heinze contacted me in January to see if there was any chance of staying at the GMWSRS during the summer and collaborating with one of the whale watch companies to conduct surveys and collect whale behaviour data. Our research field season wasn't beginning until August this year so the accommodations were available in July.  Ashley planned her time accordingly, arriving the end of June and has been coming with Whales-n-Sails Adventures on most trips.  It has been a pleasure to be of assistance, both by providing accommodations and also helping with the data collection on board.  We are always happy to collaborate with others when possible.
I asked Ashley to provide a profile of her academic background and interest in marine biology:

The first time I saw or even placed my feet in the ocean I was twelve years old and ever since then the big deep blue has fascinated me. I was never solely focused on marine mammals, although, they did interest me.

During my undergraduate career I tried to explore many aspects of the marine biology field. I was always looking to be involved in hands on or field research to gain as much experience as possible. I first began entering data for the Census of Marine Life at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography and at the same time I began volunteering at Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration. While at the aquarium I had the opportunity to be an exhibit interpreter for two years and then a husbandry assistant for another two years. To gain a greater amount of field experience I worked under two graduate students at the University of Rhode Island, one from the Wilga Lab and one from the Thornber Lab. While working for the Wilga Lab I was able to help with the Kinematics of Spiny Dogfish, Squalus acanthias, the function of the dorsal fin in bamboo sharks and the functional morphology of the dorsal fins in sharks during steady swimming and maneuvering. The Thornber Lab allowed me to expand my knowledge of the distribution of algal communities in Rhode Island.

Ashley Heinze, Masters student,
 College of the Atlantic
When studying abroad in Australia I gave my future education and career a great amount of thought. After traveling around the country I started to begin questioning different tourism activities. How much does the activity change the behavior of the animal involved and how much does the activity affect the people involved? I began to ask myself what tourism activity is growing in North America then I thought whale watching. College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME has allowed me to create a project in which I am able to look at both of these questions. In collaboration with the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company and Whales-n-Sails Adventures I am able to compare the two whale watching areas. I am comparing the knowledge and attitudes of whale watching passengers before and after the whale watch trips. I am also looking at the differences and similarities between the whale watches in Grand Manan and Bar Harbor and comparing whale behaviors during these trips. Whales-n-Sails Adventures and Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company have donated trips to me when space allows. I currently have two field assistants this summer, Kathryn Scurci and Jessica McCordic, both are in Bar Harbor collecting data while I am here on Grand Manan. Since my assistants were not able to be here on Grand Manan, Laurie has graciously offered to provide me with photos taken from each trip that will be used for photo identification.

I am having an amazing time here on Grand Manan and eagerly look forward to my remaining time here on the island and collaborating with Whales-n-Sails Adventures ( This was my first visit Grand Manan and I know it will not be my last!

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