SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23
Fittingly, my whirlwind of summer travel to the Arctic culminated on the final weekend of the season with the third annual Belugas Count event. The day-long citizen science celebration brought together members of the public to focus on the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale to foster civic pride, awareness, and stewardship. The event is a collaboration of several federal and state agencies, as well as local and national organizations and private citizens.
Even clear across the country Mystic Aquarium played a role in the celebration. Back at home, guest outreach took center stage with a celebration of Belugas Count! We hosted activities that engaged guests in the education of belugas and their conservation.
In Alaska, from 10am to 2pm during Belugas Count, approximately 1,200 people helped spot and count Cook Inlet beluga whales at 15 staffed stations throughout Cook Inlet. A total of 58 beluga whale sightings were recorded including the Kenai station (14) Hope (2), Girdwood (8), and Bird Point (34).
At the Alaska Zoo, I participated in a the “Ask the Beluga Experts” panel discussion along with Barbara Mahoney, a Biologist from the NOAA AK Regional office, Kathy Burek-Huntington of Alaska Veterinary Pathology Services, Jon Kurlander, the Assistant Regional Administrator from the NOAA AK regional office, Paul Wade, Research Biologist from the NOAA AK Regional office and lead for Cook Inlet beluga research, and others.
This was a wonderful opportunity to once again sit alongside other professionals that share the same goal for the advancement of outreach and beluga conservation, but more importantly to participate with the public that are so engaged; who asked important and insightful questions as to how they can to help with beluga research and conservation efforts!