Working with Happywhale to identify and protect whales around the world.
Happywhale is an innovative and inspiring organisation who aim to make it easy and rewarding for the public to participate in marine mammal science. Using state-of-the-art image processing algorithms, Happywhale matches whale fluke photos with scientific collections and catalogues, and the data from photos submitted to the website builds on research about whales worldwide.
Ecotourists can be citizen scientists by submitting an image of a whale fluke to the Happywhale website. Then, you can track where ‘your’ whale has been and even find out its name. Initially, Happywhale focused on humpback whale photo identification, collecting tail fluke images from citizen scientists and matching them with individual whales in research collections.
Humpback whales have unique patternings and markings on the underside of their tail flukes which can be used to identify individuals. This could be a white splodge, a black mark or even cuts and notches from predators. When you submit a photo of a whale fluke, you will be notified if this whale has been recorded on Happywhale before (its name and where it has been sighted previously), or if the animal is ‘new to science’, meaning it hasn’t been recorded before!
Every time ‘your’ whale is sighted, you will receive a notification of a repeat sighting, with a link to more details about the whale, which will give you ongoing feedback about your scientific contribution.
Co-founder and Director of Happywhale, Ted Cheesman, wanted to create an innovative citizen science programme to build a greater understanding of whales as individuals. Since launching in 2015, Happywhale have documented over 70,000 humpback whales across the world!
‘Through photo-ID we have been able to document over 70,000 individual humpback whales globally, knowledge that every whale photographer can contribute to and that is being actively used to understand the health of whale populations and our oceans.’
And this is where ORCA come in! With over 60 Ocean Conservationists working out at sea this year, the volume of whale photos in ORCA’s library is growing rapidly!
Ocean Conservationist Coordinator, Kate, recently travelled to Iceland, and has submitted a humpback whale tail fluke photograph to Happywhale. This humpback whale is ‘new to science’ and has not been identified before, meaning it has no name! This photograph was taken during a Destination Experience Ocean Conservationists were escorting on during the 'Whales & Volcanoes of Iceland & The Azores' cruise on board Fred.Olsen Borealis in April 2022.
We are running an appeal throughout August, and anyone who makes a donation of £10 or more to ORCA throughout the month, will be entered into a draw. At the end of the month, we will pick a winner, and they will get to name the whale!
By donating to ORCA and supporting our appeal, you can help us continue to survey in the UK, Europe and beyond, run our programmes at sea and continue working with government and industry to ensure we create safe places for whales and dolphins.