Summer update

Like many research projects, the ECOPredS project has changed gears during lockdown, working on existing data analyses at home. Our citizen science game development has been steaming ahead online regardless, thanks to the talented programming students in Salo Vocational college (designs in image above by Harriet Kuusinen) although their planned visit to Scotland has been postponed. As the restrictions are being slowly lifted, we look forward to planning ahead and Julia’s PhD officially starting end of September. Field work this year is looking unlikely, though it would be great to make a catch-up visit to Shetland later in the fall, if possible. It has been encouraging to see killer whale sightings still being made at people’s doorsteps all around Scotland, and even in England!

If you are lucky enough to spot killer whales and/or seals, we would be very interested in your sighting data. The online forms have just been updated and streamlined, so they should be easier to use than before. You can open the forms on your mobile phone and fill them on the go, or sit down with your computer to fill the forms afterwards – as long as you can report the exact sighting time and location (photos and videos are always a good way to jog the memory!). We are particularly interested in re-sightings of the same group, whenever possible. Once you have filled the Sighting form, any re-sightings can be submitted through the shorter “Follow-up” form.

The forms are very similar to those used by Sea Watch, so that we can easily share the data, but our aim is to garner additional information about prey. We would love to hear not only of any seals associated with the sighting, but also other potential prey, such as mackerel or harbour porpoise. To better understand the whales’ consumption of seals, we need to build a picture of their dietary requirements as a whole.

P.S. National Whale and Dolphin Watch is on just now – to find out more and how to take part safely, check the Sea Watch Foundation website.

Seal models for the citizen science game. Can you identify the species? Designs by Harriet Kuusinen, SSKKY
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