EDUCATION: Whale Watching

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Science  07 Jun 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5574, pp. 1771
DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5574.1771a

Herman Melville could have made Moby Dick even longer if he'd had access to WhaleNet, a sprawling educational site aimed at secondary school students, teachers, and the general public. Marine scientist Michael Williamson of Wheelock College in Boston founded the site 9 years ago to spark interest in science and the environment as well as in whales such as this acrobatic humpback.

The site's activities let students work with real data and try out some of the tasks cetacean biologists have to master, such as identifying individual humpback whales from pigmentation and notches on the tail fin. They can also follow the travels of more than 50 satellite-tagged marine mammals and analyze 25 years' worth of sighting records for humpbacks in the Gulf of Maine. A pod of links explore whales' biology, including their sonar system for navigating and communicating. There are also a few more research-oriented links, such as a study of PCB levels in blue whales living in the St. Lawrence Seaway, as well as population estimates from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

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