The Whale Museum’s Marine Naturalist Training Course began today with a series of lectures at Friday Harbor High School. Out of the 20 students enrolled, a few of us work or volunteer at the Whale Museum, others, who came from as far away as Portland, Oregon, came to enhance or change their current careers and most of us came with a desire to engage more meaningfully and actively in our surrounding environment. Upon completion of the course graduates will be certified naturalists eligible to join the newly forming, Salish Sea Association of Marine Naturalists.
photos: the Whale Museum
Cindy Hansen, the Museum’s Education Coordinator welcomed the class followed by Shann Weston’s introduction to the concept of the Salish Sea, an ecosystem that defies international boundaries to include the Strait of Georgia, Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. Shann spoke about having a sense of place and warned us about videophilia, the tendency for we screen fixated humans to get our “nature” from nature programs on television or online instead of going outside. Later when I was talking to Kim from Orcas about which Orca she might want to adopt (a Whale adoption is included with the course), I found myself recommending Ruffles or Granny from J-pod. As a selling point I mentioned that they were both movie stars due to their roles in the movie Free Willy II. I was telling Kim that she could always watch the movie if she wanted see them. I realized as soon as I said it that, “Oh no!” I was recommending celebrity whale videophilia!
Greg Hertel gave an overview of the geology of the Salish Sea. He explained how a mosaic of materials, some traveling as far as equatorial sea-beds in the tropical Pacific, were pressured by volcanic, tectonic and glacial forces to form our unique landscape. Did you know that tectonic plates move at about the same rate fingernails grow? Greg shared a quote from William Durant, “Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice.” Our options when confronted by change? Move, adapt or die.
Cindy gave us an overview of the Salish Sea Orca or Southern Residents (J, K & L pods). She made several cases for the possibilities of Orca culture including the greeting ceremonies of Southern Residents, Orca language and the fact that Orca, Long Finned Pilot Whales and humans are the only known creatures to go through menopause. What this means is that Granny aka J2, and women my age have social value beyond breeding. I was glad to hear it although I have never doubted it regarding the matriarch of J pod. Finally, Dave Ellifrit from the Center for Whale Research concluded the lectures with a summary of Orca identification using photo ID. He gave us tips for recognizing individuals among our local Orca populations. We finished up at the Whale Museum where Exhibit Hall Manager Nikki Ruggiero gave us a tour.