I recently had a unique opportunity to participate in a humpback whale research project in Maui, Hawaii. The Keiki Kohola Project is focused on calf-mother relationships. This encompasses the behavior, health of the whales, number of whales and the role the escort plays. Working with professionals in this field was a great learning experience and provided further motivation to continue down my path. The passion Dr. Cartwright exudes for these animals is very palpable and motivates everyone around her.
The trip began at the LAX airport, where the team met to embark on our journey to the island of Maui. Once we landed, and the logistics were taken care of, we were debriefed on what was to come. Teams were already established prior to embarking and study material was provided which prepared us for what to expect. We were not prepared ,however, for how majestic these creatures are in person.
The first day the team had a chance to be on one of the two boats used for this project. This day was used as an initial safety brief and getting the students oriented to boat work and what to expect when doing data collection for the rest of the week. The following days were filled with data collection and during the evenings we reflected on our day; sometimes this included guest lectures from professionals in similar fields. Some of the data we collected was aerial drone footage of the whales, channel whale transects and reef fish and coral transects. This data will be analyzed and used to assess the health of whales and reefs.
Working with teams is a rewarding experience. I find most teams I work with provide a great learning experience and this Maui trip was no exception. Simultaneously learning from and teaching team members creates an efficient unit that is able to get more completed throughout the day. On this Maui trip all researchers were able to experience all parts of the research.
The trip was very useful and enlightening. It taught me new field techniques and I met amazing people. I will take what I learned and experienced here to my future career.