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Whale watcher

Dr. Kim Davies works to protect the world’s remaining right whales.

Research associate Kim Davies (PhD’12) began her doctoral studies in the Department of Oceanography on right whale habitat around southern Nova Scotia. “In 2010, surveys started to indicate a decline of right whales in their known and protected habitats that indicated a change in their food resource, but we had no idea where to look for them,” explains Dr. Davies.

After graduating, she created the Whales, Habitat and Listening Experiment (The WHaLE Project), a project that uses underwater robots called gliders to search for baleen whale habitats by concurrently listening for whale calls and monitoring the ocean environment in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Scotian Shelf.

HIGHLIGHTS: The goal of the WHaLE project is finding and defining whale habitat on Canada’s east and west coasts, though most pressingly North Atlantic right whales. Though she describes the work as “looking for a needle in a haystack,” the program has so far been instrumental in helping discover previously unknown right whale habitat in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a critical step in protecting the some-450 right whales left in the world.

WHY SHE DOES IT: Right whales are fascinating animals to learn about, and at the same time they are at serious risk of extinction because of ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements. “I do this (glider-based monitoring) because I can learn more about them while also contributing to efforts to reduce harm to them,” says Dr. Davies.