Field site: Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands, Washington State
Research: Locate and collect fecal samples from the Southern Resident Community Killer Whales for the Center for Conservation Biology, University of Washington.
Length of study: June through the end of September
First string = Tucker, Male, 6 years old, 3rd summer working in the San Juan Islands
Second string = Sadie May, Female, 8 years old, 1st summer in the San Juan Islands, back-up and possible whale dog
Training, training and more training. It's my first study on the water handling Tuck-man. Needless to say it is very very different from working a dog on land. Basically he has no way of moving to the sample to find it for you. We have to read his behaviors and move to boat to where he wants us to go. Means there has to be two lines of communication; Tuck and myself and then myself and the boat driver. I read Tucker's body movements and then communicate via hand signals to the driver. She then maneuvers the boat. The end result is a small floating sample! We have to be quick however since rough seas, boats and sometimes the whales themselves can sink a fecal sample.
It's been a great week. The team has done really well being patient with me while I learn how to work on a boat and Jessica (the new graduate student in charge of the study) is doing awesome learning the quirks of the study. We have even found 4 samples! Yea, team!!
Tucker and Sadie are loving the house we're in. There is a small yard where they play all the time and plenty of roads around for jogs. All in all, we're looking forward to a fantastic summer!
We'll keep you posted!!
Liz, Sadie and Tucker!!