Being a marine biologist isn’t always exciting. Sometimes it means sitting in an office, answering phone calls, and entering data into a computer. Yet, this deskwork can be just as important to helping whales, porpoises and dolphins as studying them in the field.

Doug Sandilands and Nadine Pinnell know this. As researchers for the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, they spend a lot of time collecting information from members of the public. The reports and pictures arrive by email, over the phone, or via logbooks.

Whale accountants

Once the data is collected, Aquarium volunteers enter the information into a database. This database has over 20,000 entries and is growing every week.

If the information is accompanied by a photograph of a killer whale, experts must identify which individual it is. This is not an easy task, even though they have a catalogue of all known whales for reference. Sometimes the only difference between two whales is a spot on one’s saddle patch or a nick on another’s dorsal fin.

Want to try your hand at identifying killer whales? Check out our Familiar fins section to get the lowdown.
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

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