Survey Summary: HWDT 12

 Citizen scientists on visual effort - surveying Hebridean waters for whales, dolphins and porpoises

Citizen scientists on visual effort - surveying Hebridean waters for whales, dolphins and porpoises

Our team of intrepid volunteer citizen scientists arrived in Ullapool on the 18th September, travelling from around the UK, Germany and Mid-West USA. The crew welcomed the team aboard Silurian on a beautiful Monday afternoon, beginning the penultimate Expedition Survey of 2018.  The rendezvous in Ullapool allows for survey coverage of the more northerly parts of our study area.   

 Transect lines surveyed during Survey 12, with  Silurian  collecting visual, acoustic and environmental data

Transect lines surveyed during Survey 12, with Silurian collecting visual, acoustic and environmental data

During the expedition - running the 18th to 29th September - Silurian and her team travelled 439.5 nautical miles, collecting important visual and acoustic data between spectacular overnight anchorages.  Acoustically, over 467 GB of recordings were collected and our hydrophone (an underwater microphone) made 282 harbour porpoise detections.

 A common dolphin breaks the surface while one of our team catches the moment

A common dolphin breaks the surface while one of our team catches the moment

9 different species were encountered, with 143 sightings totalling 328 individuals.  The species list included Risso's dolphins, white beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises - which were the most commonly encountered species of cetacean.  We also had great sightings of our 'summer visitors': minke whale, common dolphin and even a sunfish!  Sunfish are the heaviest bony fish in the oceans, with sightings rare in the Hebrides and usually occurring in late summer. 

 As Risso's dolphins age, the more scarred they become, making some of the older males appear almost white

As Risso's dolphins age, the more scarred they become, making some of the older males appear almost white

Massive thanks to the citizen scientist team who joined us aboard: Elisabeth, Dave, Ian, Joan, Pattie and Richard - without whom, we couldn't collect the vital data that we use to evidence for the better protection of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Hebrides.

A fantastic way to learn about both cetaceans, sea birds and the coast of the north-west Scotland and the Hebrides
This was an opportunity of a lifetime, which I sincerely hope to repeat in the near future.

Thanks also to Scottish Natural Heritage who help fund the data collection programme aboard Silurian.

Feeling inspired to join our marine conservation efforts...come aboard Silurian in 2018 and have the experience of a lifetime!