Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership

Warmer Weather and More Belugas
We hope everyone had a wonderful Earth Day! Hopefully you had a chance to get outside and be thankful for this beautiful planet. We are 40 days into our spring season and we have monitored 95 sessions! That is INCREDIBLE! Thank you all who have monitored so far this season and braved the cold conditions. It is so nice that the weather is now warmer and there is more open water to gaze at. We know many of you in the Upper Inlet haven't seen belugas yet but they are here and have been spotted several times in Turnagain Arm this week. Thank you for your patience as we waited for spring and the belugas to arrive. This weekend is looking sunny at all of our monitoring sites. Signup and let's surpass 100 sessions monitored before the end of the month! 
Click to Watch: Beluga whales swimming in the Kenai River on April 20th. Video Credit: Kelly Matthews
Click to Watch: Beluga whales swimming by Seward Highway Mile Marker 95.3 on April 14th.
Twentymile River is Open: 

Twentymile River is free of ice and open for monitoring! Now that we have seen the belugas swim by Mile Marker 95.3, it is just a matter of time before we start seeing them use the river. Before we know it the hooligan will be here!
Counting Aircraft Protocol: 

When counting aircrafts that fly by during a monitoring session the past protocol had us only counting aircrafts that fly under 1,000 feet. We have realized that it is very difficult to gauge aircraft height. The new protocol for counting aircrafts in the monitoring area is; if you see it and hear it, count it. Additionally, it doesn't matter if it is the same aircraft flying by multiple times, count every flight taken over the monitoring area. The belugas don't know when it is same aircraft so count every aircraft flight you can see and hear during your session.
Anthropogenic Beluga Scarring: 

Our collaborators, Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project, just published a paper about human-caused scarring in Cook Inlet belugas. Many of these marks are visible from shore when monitoring. Please help keep an eye out for these marks (click below to read the paper, see photos, and learn the source of the scars). As always, if you are able to take photos of the whales when you are monitoring (and anytime you see belugas) that is greatly appreciated and helps the research conducted by Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project. Below is a short summary of the paper and a link to the entire paper. 
Paper Summary: Vessel strikes, entanglement, poaching, intentional harassment, and invasive research are possible direct anthropogenic threats to the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas, population (CIBW) according to the CIBW Recovery Plan. Establishing the prevalence of such threats is necessary for understanding impact and monitoring future trends. We examined records of individual belugas photographed during 2005–17, along with stranding records during this time, to determine prevalence of scars indicative of anthropogenic trauma, and classified these scars according to their likely sources (e.g., entanglements, vessel strikes, puncture wounds, and research). In this combined dataset, 37.7% of 106 individuals had scars classified as either confirmed or possible anthropogenic origin. In the photo-ID records, 15% of individuals had signs of confirmed or possible entanglement, 14% had signs of confirmed or possible vessel strikes, 5% had signs of possible puncture scars, and 24% had research scars. Out of 33 necropsied belugas, 6% had scars from satellite tagging, 6% had signs of entanglement, 3% had possible signs of a vessel strike, and 3% had possible signs of puncture scars. We also examined wound healing, reproduction, and survival of individuals with scars consistent with anthropogenic trauma. One important result from this work is that trauma from anthropogenic sources may take years to manifest. From our limited sample we cannot directly infer the population-level prevalence of anthropogenic trauma, but our assessment shows the source and prevalence in the sample; this is a preliminary step in understanding how anthropogenic trauma may be contributing to the population’s continued decline.
Figure from Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project paper, Anthropogenic Scarring in Long-term Photo-identification Records of Cook Inlet Beluga Whales, Delphinapterus leucas. Read the paper to learn more.
Read Paper Here
Did You Miss Our Virtual Volunteer Orientation? 

No problem, we recorded it! Click the link below to watch our volunteer orientation, the first step to becoming a beluga citizen scientist. 
Need Monitoring Training?

No problem, signup for a monitoring session with a lead observer. Lead observers are listed in the orange-colored column on the signup schedule. If you are having trouble with your schedule lining up with the schedule of our lead observers, send us an email.
Keep Up With Sightings:

The sighting log is active on our site. Click here to see when we monitor and when we see belugas.
Field Photos: 
Citizen scientist, Bridget Crokus, monitoring for belugas at Mile Marker 95.3 Pullout.
Ice-free view from Ship Creek monitoring session.
View from sunset monitoring session at Kasilof River. Thanks Kelly Matthews for sharing with us!
Beluga whale swimming in the Kenai River. Photo Credit: Kelly Matthews
Current Outreach from Partners: 

Our partners do some amazing things outside the Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership. Here are a few, click below to learn more:

Alaska Wildlife Alliance - Earth Week

Beluga Whale Alliance - Rising Tide Live Facebook Stream

Defender's of Wildlife - Earth Day 2021

Kenai Peninsula College - Earth Day

NOAA - Citizen Science Projects

Opportunistic Sightings: 
When you are adventuring around Cook Inlet it is very common to see beluga whales. These sightings are valuable and you can report them.
Every sighting is a valuable sighting when a species is endangered.
Thank you for being a beluga citizen scientist! 
- Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership
Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership (AKBMP)
Cook Inlet, Alaska 

Support for this partnership is provided by Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Beluga Whale Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife Alaska, Kenai Peninsula College, and the National Marine Fisheries Service

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Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership · Rezanof Circle · Anchorage, Ak 99507 · USA

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