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The Allen Marine tour boat pushed off the dock at the Sitka Crescent Harbor on a clear crisp October afternoon with University of Alaska Southeast researchers, alumni and supporters of the university in search of humpback whales. It didn't take long to find them.
In just minutes, in Sitka Sound within clear view of Mt. Edgecumbe, whale spouts came into view, shooting up along the horizon. Eager watchers stepped up to the rail on the leeward side, cameras and phones in hand, quickly realizing that the spouts circled the vessel, too many to count. Humpbacks lounged on the surface of the water, rolling gently in the waves and occasionally raising their flukes as the captain cut the engine and let passengers observe quietly for the next 45 minutes.
Tour - Part - UAS - Alumni - Friends
The tour was part of a UAS Alumni & Friends excursion set to highlight the extensive work of the University of Alaska Southeast Whale Researcher and Marine Biology Professor Jan Straley, Madison Kosma, a current graduate student studying humpback whales feeding at hatcheries and her former student Ellen Chenoweth, Ph.D., now a UAS Adjunct Professor and Research Advising and Mentorship Professional for University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Straley, who has been documenting whale behavior for the past 40 years, occasionally broke the silence onboard to describe the behavior on the feeding ground and share some observations from her research.
Whales - Sitka - Sound - Breeding - Ground
"The whales in Sitka Sound are getting ready to migrate to the breeding ground. About 94 percent of whales who feed in Southeast Alaska and Northern British Columbia go to Hawaii. The remaining 6 percent go Mexico. But she notes that they are noticing an increasing trend of humpbacks lingering in Sitka Sound later in the winter.
The researchers noted that they are seeing fewer calves, skinnier whales and more whales staying longer into winter feeding on herring, partially...
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