On March 12, 2019, after many months of planning, I helped welcome over 100 of the greatest minds in beluga conservation to Mystic Aquarium. The goal of the three-day conference was to connect, collaborate and share traditional knowledge and exploration of advances in aquarium husbandry, field biology and the latest science impacting beluga whales.
It had been over a decade since the great minds in beluga conservation have met specifically to discuss how collaboration can positively impact education and conservation.
The Second International Workshop on Beluga Research and Conservation convened indigenous community members, scientists, wildlife managers and policy makers to share traditional knowledge and exploration of advances in aquarium husbandry, field biology and the latest science impacting beluga whales to strengthen networks toward a common goal of advancements in the field of beluga whale research and conservation.
The keynote presentations focused on the current status of belugas in different regions of the Arctic as well as current research initiatives and subsequent research gaps. An esteemed panel of presenters addressed major topics that included Behavior and Ecology on Tuesday, March 12; Aquarium Animal Husbandry, Science & Education on Wednesday, March 13 and Conservation and Management – Thursday, March 14.
Panels also included a variety of key subjects. But, of the major panel topics over the three-days, in my estimation, none were more important than the panels on traditional ecological knowledge.
Traditional Ecological Knowledge is critical to advancing our knowledge on beluga whales. Partnerships with the people that live in the Arctic and know the animals and environment firsthand, paired with scientific inquiry, are the only way that we can truly make headway in beluga research and conservation.
Excerpts from the conference can be found by visiting MysticAquarium.org
By sharing our expertise and establishing new collaborations, we hope to better inform conservation and management decisions of belugas in both aquarium and native settings.