Whales and Dolphins Under the California Sun

Spend an amazing weekend in Southern California gathering critical data on Pacific grey whales during their winter migration.

These magnificent gray whales have been recovering from near-extinction since the end of the whaling trade and were removed from the endangered species list in 1994, but now they already appear to be in trouble again. The reasons for the recent decline are still not clear; it may have been due to changes in the abundance of their prey, which is itself impacted by climate change and habitat destruction.

Whales of California examines a wide array of anthropogenic influences to determine which threaten the health of the gray whale population. As volunteers, you will provide much-needed assistance in data collection from both “vessels of opportunity” (such as whale-watch boats) and from shore stations, along with data entry and analysis.

The most rewarding part of the experience, however, is the opportunity to meet people with a common interest in taking an active role in the research.

Pre-Apply Now

What to Expect?

You will be able to participate in all components of grey whale research and assist in Earthwatch data collection during this intensive period. At breakfast each morning, we will provide an overview of the day’s plans and then split into subgroups. You will be trained on the methods and skills needed to accurately collect and/or analyze the data.

The tasks at hand include:


1. Boat observations - 1/2 day on Sat. and Sun.
On both Saturday and Sunday, each group will spend approximately 3 hours on a whale-watch boat involved in photo ID work. We will record GPS coordinates, and take photographs and possibly video, along with recording all observations in a data sheet. Volunteers will rotate between the different roles so as to assist with all aspects of this work. Be prepared to stand outside on deck for the majority of this time, and be aware that you may find the necessity for keen and careful observation more tiring than you would expect.


2. Shore observations - 1/2 day on either Sat. or Sun.
Each group will spend one rotation (approximately 3–4 hours) observing gray whales from the shore in Palos Verdes and/or San Pedro. By observing from shore, we can observe their behavior without the influence of our presence. You will use binoculars to observe their behaviors, and you may help track the movements of boats and/or whales with the theodolite. Volunteers will also help to record blow rates by noting the exact time of every blow and dive of each whale. You will spend much of this time standing, although you can sit while recording data, and, again, this activity requires careful observations.


3. Data Analysis - 1/2 day on either Sat. or Sun.
Each group will spend one rotation (approximately 3–4 hours) assisting with data entry and analysis. You may be dealing with data you collected yourself or data previously collected. The exact focus will vary depending on the rotation timing. This work will be done at the library at the Cabrillo Aquarium in San Pedro, and will involve sitting and computer work.

Each evening during the trip, there will be dinner at local restaurant and informal discussion of the research. There is no recreational time built into this schedule, except in evenings. If you arrive early or stay later, there are many options for excursions in the nearby areas of Long Beach, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Orange County.

  • Program ID: # 1696
  • duration:
    Less than 1 Week
  • location:
    Palos Verdes, California Palos Verdes , CA
    United States
    33° 46' 12" N, 118° 25' 27.012" W
    California US
  • Fitness level:
    Light Impact
  • Closest Airport:
    Please contact program
  • Costs From:
    $1500 to $3000
    Over $3000
  • Program Type:
    Environmental & Wildlife Programs
    Learn Abroad
  • Click Here for More Info

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