Take a peek into the mysterious world of whales with a workshop that explores a variety of topics from whale habitat to health and beyond.
The annual Ways of Whales Workshop is set for 9:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 at Coupeville Middle School, located at 501 S. Main St., Coupeville.
Space is limited so register early at orcanetwork.org.
This annual workshop explores the wonders of Pacific Northwest whales, the threats to their habitat, prey and health and the research being conducted to learn more about the diverse species of whales in this region and to protect them for future generations, said Howard Garrett of Orca Network, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of orcas in the Pacific Northwest. The workshop will focus on orca whales but will also explore humpback and gray whales of the Salish Sea.
At the workshop, Garrett will present a paper by Emma Foster of the U.K. titled “Adaptive Prolonged Post-reproductive Life Span in Killer Whales.”
“It’s a real breakthrough in the scientific documentation of menopause in female orcas and their lifelong bonding with their sons,” Garrett said.
Dr. Peter Ross, a research scientist in Canada, will present research about toxins and other threats to South Resident orcas.
“He’s the world’s expert on toxins found in orcas,” Garrett said.
Flame retardants, PCBs and other toxins are found everywhere in the ecosystem but they accumulate in orcas. Ross will explain the consequences of this, Garrett said.
Filmmaker John Gussman will present about the Elwha River dam removal and restoration.
“He’ll bring us up to date and especially on the regeneration of life in the Elwha,” Garrett said, adding that orcas depend on chinook salmon and the Elwha is a huge source of chinook salmon.
Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda will speak about the petition to de-list South Resident orcas from the Endangered Species Act listing.
“He’s heading up the effort to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Garrett said.
Canadian researcher Mark Malleson is a transient whale expert in Victoria, B.C. He will speak about the transient orcas and humpback whales of that area.
Environmental education displays and materials will be available throughout the day. Environmental organizations interested in having a display table should contact Orca Network at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sea of knowledge
“There are a lot of interesting insights,” Garrett said of the workshop. “All of these are ways of looking at mainly the orcas but also their habitat, their whole situation, how are we treating them and their necessary habitat.”
You don’t have to be a scientist to enjoy the workshop. Naturalists, researchers and educators will benefit from the workshop, but so will anyone who cares about whales.
“It reinforces positive, caring attitudes about them (whales),” Garrett said of the workshop. “It unifies that dedication to helping them.”
Garrett has been involved with orcas since 1981 at the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island. He also studied humpback and fin whales in New England for 10 years. The social systems of whales have never failed to intrigue Garrett.
“Their cultural development is unlike any other wildlife and I just find them fascinating,” Garrett said.
He advised workshop participants to register right away and to pay in advance at orcanetwork.org. The cost to attend is $30, or $25 for students and seniors. A hot lunch is available for purchase for an additional $10 for those who register by Jan. 20.
For more information, contact Orca Network at email@example.com or 360-678-3451.
The workshop is sponsored by Homeplace of Oak Harbor - Special Care Center and Captain Whidbey Inn on Penn Cove in Coupeville.