This past Saturday was not quite the big day, but it was the first of the big days. Several hundred marine mammal scientists, from all over world, assembled on Otago University’s campus in Dunedin for a set of pre-conference workshops.
The workshops cover a wide range of topics, some predictable – gatherings of scientists who work on particular species (e.g. right whales) or in a particular region (e.g. Hawaii), and others not. Firmly in the “not” category is “What can the Cloud do to save whales”. This was a group concerned about vessel collisions with whales, hoping to develop ways that real-time monitoring and internet technology can be applied to reduce the likelihood of collisions. One development is to have folks in the shipping industry log their sightings with a mobile app called “spotter” which uploads those to a constantly changing map of where whales are – so that area can be avoided by ship captains.
Other workshops focussed on impacts of tourism, bycatch in fishing, and assessing effects of coastal development. And that’s just Saturday, a further set of workshops run tomorrow.
The really big day is today, Monday. About 1200 people will be gathering in the Dunedin Town Hall to listen to a set of “Keynote” addresses by world experts. Today sets the theme of the conference “Marine Mammal Conservation, Science making a difference” by having talks on conservation successes, frustrations and failures, with local and international case studies presented by scientists who are true conservation heroes. The idea is to map out ways to more effectively turn science findings into conservation action – to bridge the gap between science and politics.
It’s an exciting time. The biggest scientific conference ever held in Dunedin. Many, very smart people, working on the most interesting animals on the planet, together in one place. Very cool!
For us on the organising team, there’s some relief. First hurdle cleared. So far, no problems.
Steve Dawson PhD
Dept of Marine Science
Marine Science Department
NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust