“Why is the work that you do important?”

“We want to better understand the animals that are the ambassadors of the ocean. The state of cetacean populations is an indication of how healthy the ocean ecosystem is.”

As the Vancouver Aquarium B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network coordinator, Tessa Danelesko works with a team of volunteers to collect and log sightings of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and sea turtles. This information is then stored in a database and shared with other organizations and scientists.

The point of the program, which is operated jointly with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is to learn when and where along our coast these animals spend time. For example, in the last few years, there were more reports of Pacific white-sided dolphins in Howe Sound – a relatively new trend. The network compiles the sighting reports, and this information helps us understand if this area is becoming more important to these dolphins.

Tessa says she enjoys travelling along B.C.’s coast as part of the program’s outreach initiatives. She teaches species identification to people who work or play on the water, so that they can contribute sightings as citizen scientists. Tessa says she loves “getting carried away talking about all the cool things about cetaceans and sea turtles,” and seeing people’s reactions when she shares interesting pieces of information with them.

According to Tessa, the most rewarding part of her job is “using my skills to effect conservation in a positive way.”

Learn more about Tessa and other Aquarium staffers during the Ask the Staff program running daily during Vancouver Aquarium Up Close, a special feature on until April 30. To view times for the Ask the Staff program, visit our daily show schedule.

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