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Gray Whale Research Project

Overview

Between January and March each year gray whales frequent the warm shallow waters of Bahía Almejas, where they migrate to breed and calve. Stationed at our basecamp on Isla Santa Margarita, we will conduct daily boat-based photo-ID surveys of the gray whales to determine individual identification, abundance and distribution of the population within the bay. Each trip will be a week long, consisting of daily surveys, some data organisation, and the opportunity to experience some of the other incredible nature and wildlife encounters of Baja California Sur. There is opportunity to stay for multiple survey trips, and the potential to use some of the data for theses (upon discussion).

This project offers a great opportunity to access a unique area with exceptional wildlife, working with the community who share their local expertise, so that we may come together to broaden our understanding of the gray whales that we all rely upon and enjoy.

Whether you are someone who is working towards a career in marine biology, or a nature enthusiast keen to experience research first hand, this project provides a thoroughly enjoyable educational experience for everyone.

The data collection will involve:

Field Data:

  • Photo Identification
  • GPS data
  • Behavioural observations
  • Grouping observations

Land-based Work:

  • Organising photos to identify individuals
  • Organise trip data into excel
  • Download GPS data
  • All ages welcome, though under 16s must be accompanied by a parent or guardian
  • Conversational Spanish/English
  • Able to work independently and as part of a team
  • Comfortable living in remote camping site with extremely limited facilities
  • Passionate about marine ecosystems, research and conservation

Bahía Almejas is the southernmost bay of Baja California Sur used by the gray whales on their winter migration. The main access point to the bay by land is Puerto Chale, a small, remote fishing village on the west coast of B.C.S., which is where guests arrive during the season to board local whale-watching vessels. It is approximately a two-hour drive from La Paz to Puerto Chale. The bay is protected from the open waters of the Pacific Ocean by the island of Santa Margarita. Our basecamp for the research trips will be on this island.

Survey trips will run for one week at a time, continuously, between January 24th and March 8th 2019. Volunteers are welcome to stay for more than one survey week. If you are interested in joining for the entire season, please send us your CV and cover letter and we would be very happy to discuss the options.

 

US $1,200 for 1 week, US $2,000 for 2 weeks.

We will provide you with:

  • Introductory lectures to the area, the species and the project
  • Training in data collection, data organisation and uses of data
  • Excursion in La Paz to the whale sharks and the sea lion rookery
  • Return transport from La Paz to Puerto Chale and the basecamp
  • All meals, snacks refreshments and water
  • Accommodation in La Paz and at the basecamp
  • Snorkelling, kayaking and SUP equipment
  • Captained boat for daily surveys, survey materials (excluding camera)

You will need to cover your own:

  • Travel to La Paz
  • Insurance
  • SLR camera with long lens for surveys

In the mornings we will leave in the skiff from the campsite to conduct the daily grey whale surveys, which will include photographing the individuals for photo ID, taking GPS data and observational notes on groupings and behaviours. Females can be identified by the presence of a calf. We will return to the campsite for lunch, and after we will process the data to back it up and identify the animals from the survey and input the data into excel.

There will also be time in the afternoons for some recreational activities to enjoy and explore the local area, with kayaks, SUPs and hiking! During your time in La Paz, you will also have the chance to snorkel with whale sharks and sea lions.

Our basecamp will be set up on a beach of Isla Margarita, where your tent and sleeping equipment will be provided for. There will be a simple and well stocked kitchen area where we will be able to prepare our group meals 3 times a day, with snacks, water and other refreshments provided for the daily boat trips. As a Natural Protected Area, we will set up the campsite and our routine so that we will not impact the local environment.

Jose Juan Puebla, director of Eco Migrations, first arrived in La Paz from Mexico City to study Marine Biology at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABS), and once graduated started working as a whale watching and sea kayaking guide and dive master in the area. He has also worked on several marine mammal research projects around the world, and is experienced as a marine mammal observer. He then went on to set up Eco Migrations, with the aim of combining both the enjoyment of the locality through tourism with research using the tourism facilities.

Carlos Camacho, boat captain during the gray whale season from the nearby village of Santa Rita. From a family of fishermen, Carlos spends most of the year fishing in Bahía Almejas, and now supplements his livelihood during the gray whale season through the tourism. He is keen to be involved with the research to know more about the whales and to encourage best tourism practices as the industry grows in the area.

Emer McCoy, a zoologist from London, began working within marine biology in 2013 after graduating. Before joining Eco Migrations, her work primarily focussed on whale shark research, running research projects for an NGO. Emer joined Eco Migrations in 2018 to develop the research projects with Jose Juan.

Established by Jose Juan, Eco Migrations was set up to bring people out to experience the place we call home, that we enjoy so thoroughly and are endlessly fascinated by. As marine biologists, we not only want to ensure best practices within tourism, but also use the facilities that we have through tourism to study the species for their continued conservation.

Send us an email at info@ecomigrations.com for further details about the project. We look forward to hearing from you!

PLEASE NOTE: daily surveys will be weather dependent. Being at the hands of nature, the itinerary and activities may be subject to change. We thank you for your cooperation and understanding.