The Nova Scotia Offshore Energy Research Association (OERA) awarded funding to Fundy Tidal Inc., the Canadian Whale Institute (CWI), and Conserve.iO for a marine life observation program including public participation.
Free smartphone applications will be available to public (“citizen scientists”), whale tour operators, and other users (including trained dedicated observers) to participate in recording marine life observations for tidal energy and other scientific purposes.
Observations will be uploaded to a common online database, and users will be able to assess species composition, distribution, abundance and seasonality. The program will enhance efforts currently underway by local whale and seabird tour operators.
Implementing an adaptive marine mammal observation program including “citizen science” and dedicated trained marine observers is a component of Fundy Tidal’s environmental monitoring plan for tidal energy developments in the Digby Region. Fundy Tidal’s marine life monitoring system will also use passive and active acoustic systems and optical cameras. This enables a “look and listen” approach required to assess potential effects of tidal energy development on marine life.
“Fundy Tidal is excited about this step forward in environmental monitoring and community engagement. In marine energy development it’s important to remember that the site, the sea, and the community are inseparable. This advancement utilizes the connection between the community and the sea to assist in marine life monitoring, will help reduce uncertainty in marine life interactions with tidal energy developments, and creates local employment,” says Fundy Tidal CTO Greg Trowse.
“It’s a win, win, win advancement, and Fundy Tidal appreciates the continued support provided by our provincial government through OERA,” he added.
Two smart phone applications will be used to collect marine life observation data. One is designed for effort based surveys (Spotter Pro), and the other for opportunistic sightings (Whale Alert). Conserve.iO will customize both applications for use in the Bay of Fundy, and host the project including database servers, software, and on-line mapping.
Dr. Moira Brown will assist with marine life monitoring program development and oversight, including marine observer training.
Chloe Malinka, who is currently completing a Masters of Research in Marine Mammal Science at the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, will provide data review, interpretation, and database management.
Dr. Brown and Greg Trowse will host a free marine observer training session in Freeport, NS on June 16th and 17th. The training isn’t mandatory to participate in the program, but data from those who attend or have a professional background in marine life observation will be most valued in the database. Anyone interested in participating in the volunteer program is encouraged to attend.
Fundy Tidal will also be hiring part-time marine observers for this summer. Anyone interested in employment is strongly encouraged to attend the training session.
Dr. Brown will hold the Whale Emergency Network information session following the observer training on the afternoon of June 17th. This session will provide information for reporting entangled whales and whales in distress, and discuss stand-by support measures that can be taken while the response team is on route. Contact information including the reporting hotline will be distributed.