Whale watching might be an economically and environmentally feasible way to replace the whaling industry, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia. Andres Cisneros, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre, says whale watching has the global potential to become a $2.5-billion industry and support 19,000 jobs.
A gray whale surfaces beside a whale-watching boat off the coast of the Baja peninsula in Mexico. Photo © IFAW
We interviewed Andres to discuss the global whale hunting controversy and how coastal countries can profit from whale watching in this video.
We further discussed with Andres the importance of whales in the ecosystem in this podcast.
Whale watching is more than sitting on a boat and viewing just whales. It is going out into the natural environment of whales and viewing all the marine species who share the water with the whales. It has significant educational and environmental benefits and provides an outlet to study the whales scientifically. There are also economic benefits both locally and globally. Whale watching has the potential to expand the tourism market, which will promote all the local businesses and restaurants. Jobs are created when locals are trained as guides. They can combine local knowledge such as traditional encounters with the whales with scientific knowledge about the whales.
Whale watching as an alternative to whaling is an idea being promoted around the world. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) wrote up a global proposal for whale watching as a sustainable alternative. They estimated that the whale watching industry profited 1-billion dollars in 2001. Recent findings by Andres Cisneros from the University of B.C. found that whale watching could potentially profit 2.5 billion dollars worldwide. His model estimates the value of whale watching could be worth double the amount compared to 10 years ago if countries begin to expand their whale watching industry.
A humpback whale breaches off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Photo © IFAW/ C. Carlson
Regulations are being put in place to make sure whales and their environment are respected. The IFAW is one of the main groups who promotes responsible whale watching. Responsible whale watching is a global code of conduct for how whales should be treated. This is to prevent the harassment of the whales and reduce intrusions into their environment by the whale watching boats. There are concerns that a large number of boats and people may disturb whale migration and feeding habits.
There is also a need to change some of the tourism laws to allow local fishermen to act as whale watching guides.This will provide more work and give them an opportunity to expand their employment beyond just fishing. This problem was brought to Andres’ attention on a recent trip to Panama. “I was just down talking to fishermen in Panama and they were saying ‘sometimes the fishing is not very good and we know that there are whales out there and we would like to maybe ask the tourists if they want to pay us and we would take them to where we know there are whales’ and they are not letting them do that right now because of some tourism laws that they have down there.”
Whale watching is a way to use whales as a sustainable resource. It provides jobs and reduces the harm done to whales and their environment. Some countries are realizing the potential profit that whale watching can but many more can join in and stop commercial whaling. There needs to be regulation on this growing whale watching industry to make sure it is practiced ethically.
The UK company Sea Life Surveys has a video on how they run their responsible whale watching trips.
Post created by : Shirley Huang, Kate MacMillan, Irfan Haji, James Kirkbright
Posted in Environment, Final Project, Interview Project, Issues in Science, Public Engagement, Science in the News, Uncategorized
Tagged Ecosystems, environment, group E., research, science news, UBC, whale watching, whales, whaling
When someone brings up the idea that life as we know it originated from space, it is easy to think they are crazy. However, instead of thinking of lanky-green aliens, would this idea seem so far fetched if they were talking about micro-organisms? There is a hypothesis called panspermia which hypothesizes that life originated elsewhere in space and migrated to Earth. This alien life would have arrived from another planet on a meteorite.
Comet Hale-Bopp courtesy kevindooley Flickr
There are three important stages a micro-organism would have to survive for a succussful journey. Must first survive take off, then space travel and finally survive the impact upon landing. There have been studies to evaluate the likelihood of surviving any of these phases.
Gerda Horneck from the German Aerospace Center stated in a paper which evaluated spore survival during space travel that, “There are certain areas at the rim of the impact crater, called the spallation zone, where by reflection of the shock wave the temperatures do not exceed 100 degrees Celsius.” This means that it’s cool enough for some spores to survive ejection from a planet.
Rocco Mancinelli of the SETI Institute with his colleagues have published a review on bacteria surviving space journey. Their study supports that microbes could survive a trip through space. Micro-organisms hitching a ride on a meteorite can get protection from the dangerous UV radiation if they are below the surface.
A study published in 2001 explored the likelihood of bacterial spores surviving the landing impact. This study found that spores could survive impact scenarios that are similar to those that meteorites experience.
Micro-organism arriving from Mars seems the most likely since it is a relatively short journey. First it must be proven that there is or was life on Mars, a group of researchers from MIT are hoping to test Mars’ surface for microbes. If microbes are found, the next step would be to do DNA/RNA sequencing on them. With these tests we may be able to prove that our neighbouring planet may actually be our mother planet.
Microbes courtesy CdePaz Flickr
One thing to be careful of is Earth microbes could contaminate tests being done on the surface of Mars. All the research has been done on `Earthling microbes`, so we know that they can survive a journey away from Earth.
There is no definite answer to how life as we know it began on Earth. I found this research interesting because I never heard of this idea before. After looking at the papers concerning bacteria surviving space travel, I don’t think this idea is far fetched. I think it is a rather simple explanation to how Earth became inhabited. If Martian microbes could be sequenced and a connection was found between them and any organisms genome here on Earth, that would be incredible. I think it would be hard for many people to accept this idea because it makes our origins even more mysterious.
Posted in Issues in Science, New and innovative science, Public Engagement, Science in the News, Uncategorized
Tagged aliens, Common Ancestor, DNA sequencing, Mars, martians, meteorite, microbes, NASA, panspermia, research, science news, space, Space Exploration
I started this blog a week ago and hesitated on finishing it due to the recent events in Japan. However I feel like this event has been an eye opener to how destructive our Earth can be. The reality is that this earthquake and tsunami has brought up questions to those living here in Vancouver and along the coast like “What would happen if an earthquake happened here?” I grew up in Winnipeg and I had been taught that a “big earthquake” was going to hit Vancouver. It has now been over ten years and nothing has happened yet. Is there still reason to be worried?
Juan de Fuca Plate is the tectonic plate that subducting under the western side of the North America Plate. When people are concerned about the “big one” as in the “big” earthquake that will affect Vancouver, it will be due to this plate. The Juan de Fuca Plate is the smallest tectonic plate and is a remnant piece of the larger piece which is now has been subducted under the North America Plate. The area where this plate is subducting is referred to as the Cascadia subduction zone. Movement in this zone causes friction and results in earthquakes.
The last major earthquake at this Cascadia subduction zone is thought to of created a tsunami that hit Japan in the 1700’s. This tsunami crested at 5 meters and would have taken about 10 hours to cross the ocean. The article from National Geographic on this theory can be found here. Kelin Wang of the Geological Survey of Canada said in this article that the chances of another large earthquake occurring along this same Cascadia fault is “100 percent.” This is due to the fact that plate movements have been locked which causes a build up of energy. A catastrophic earthquake would result when this energy is released.
There have been some interesting quakes on the Juan de Fuca Plate. In 2008 there were 600 earthquakes in a 10 day span recorded by researchers at the Oregon State University. The part which caught the scientists by surprise was the fact they occurred in the middle of the Juan de Fuca Plate and not on a boundary. These were detected by a hydrophone.
This is an image of the recorded earthquakes in B.C. in the last month.
From the knowledge we have of tectonic plate motions and the history of this plate it does seem inevitable that a large earthquake will occur. We can see from the above image also found here that there have been many minor quakes this last month. I do find is scary that the “big one” could happen 5 minutes from now or 5 years from now. However I wonder due to the large number of earthquakes that occurred in 2008 that the Juan de Fuca Plate could do something unexpected and not subduct any further. Also maybe these little quakes are releasing built up energy thus avoiding the “big one.”
On Monday next week, the theme will be all about love.
This feeling of love has been tied to more then just getting that butterfly sensation in your stomach. Love can now be described at a neurochemical level. Research is explaining love thanks to a little chemical called dopamine.
Dopamine neurones account for less than 1% of the total neuronal population in the brain, but have great effect on its function (Mardeson, 2006). It is involved in the control of movement and the modivation for reward. Deficiency in this neurotransmitter is tied to such diseases as Parkinsons ( Mardeson, 2006).
Dopamine has also been found to be relevant to the social pairing of males and females in long and short term relationships (Curtis et al, 2006). I have friends who talk about how their relationships have changed from fun and amazing to boring and dull. It amazes me that such a transition could be due to a lack of dopamine stimulation. But fear not, this isn’t the outcome for every relationship. Discovery News has reported on a study done by Arthur Aron (a social neuroscientist at Stony Brook University in New York) and his colleagues who have found that people in long term relationships who are madly in love are not lying and that this feeling can last!
The study took 17 people who felt that they were in long term loving relationships. MRI brain-scans were done while they looked at photos of their lover and of strangers (who had similar features). Their scans were similar to those of recently fallen in love people by having a high activity in the region of the brain which processes dopamine. There was also high activity in regions related to pair-bonding and attachment.Also when comparing scans of people in long term relationships who did not rate their feeling of love as highly as to those who do, had lower levels of activity in the dopamine processing portion of the brain. This little neurotransmitter has powerful affects on our emotions, feelings and relationships. Could a little boost in producing dopamine keep us all on clould 9?
So when you give a Valentine’s Day card this Monday, that feeling you get may not be so fleeting!
- 1.Marsden, C. A. (2006). Dopamine: The rewarding years. British Journal of Pharmacology, 147(S1), S136-S144. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0706473
- 2.Curtis, J. T., Liu, Y., Wang, Z., & Aragona, B. J. (2006). Dopamine and monogamy. Brain Research, 1126(1), 76-90. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2006.07.126
This week it was announced that the TRIUMF research facility at UBC will now be a new source for medical isotopes. This has arisen due to the fact that two years ago in 2009, the nuclear facility in Chalk River, Ont. had to be shut down for a period of time for repairs. This created shortages for hospitals using these isotopes. However proton accelerators will now be used as an alternative source to prevent this situation from occurring again.
Medical isotopes are used in cancer treatment. The isotope to be created at the TRIUMF facility by its cyclotron (which is a type of proton accelerator) is technetium-99m. This isotope is used as a radioactive tracer by medical equipment for imaging the human body. To create this isotope or any new material by proton accelerators, protons are accelerated into an initial material and enter the nuclei. The added protons now change the initial material into something else. The TRIUMF website gives a specific and well diagrammed explanation on how technetium-99m will be created here at UBC.
UBC will not be alone in using its accelerator for isotope production. It was also announced in the Vancouver Sun that there will be two more facilities in Toronto. Also a fourth proton accelerator at the University of Saskatchewan called the Synchrotron will be used as well.
Synchrotron as the Uni. of SASK (CBC)
There are many pros to now using proton accelerators in this manner. There is less radioactive waste generated compared to when isotopes are produced by a nuclear reactor. Also these isotopes can be created by smaller, lower energy facilities. Canada will also have four sources rather then just one so if there is an issues at one facility there will be other sources. Metro Vancouver will soon be self-sufficient in its demand for these isotopes once the TRIUMF facility is fully producing it’s medical isotopes.
It is exciting to find another use for proton accelerators and for UBC to be leading in this new form of research and production. More information on TRIUMF’s endeavors can be found on their website.