“We need to save B.C.’s whales.” That was the message Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, head of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre cetacean research program, delivered at Sam Sullivan’s Public Salon last Wednesday.
Public Salons bring people together who don’t normally find themselves in the same room. On Nov. 19, eight speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds — musicians, dancers, entrepreneurs, cultural curators, non-profit leaders and scientists — joined an audience of over 500 people and gave inspiring presentations on what they are most passionate about. According to the organizers of the Public Salon, this program allows us to better get to know some of our outstanding citizens.
“I was thrilled when I received an invitation to speak at the Salon,” said Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard. “It offered a unique opportunity to be able to speak about my passion – killer whale research – in front of a diverse group of inquiring minds.”
How do you condense a lifetime of research down into only seven minutes? Lance started off by speaking about his childhood dream of studying snakes and lizards in Australia. When his family moved to Canada, he took a job as a lighthouse keeper in B.C. which gave him the opportunity to view marine wildlife and meet some of the scientists studying them. He met Michael Biggs, a well-known killer whale biologist, and the rest, shall we say, is history.
Lance showed off stunning images of his most recent research in partnership with NOAA scientists John Durban and Holly Fearnbach. The team is using unmanned hexacopters to obtain never before collected photographs that accurately reveal the body condition — fatness or thinness — of killer whales. “In general, a fat whale is a well-fed and healthy whale,” Lance noted.
“Our local resident killer whales prey principally on Chinook salmon,” Lance explained, “In years when salmon numbers are down; killer whale death rates go up. This means that restoring and conserving salmon populations is key to restoring killer whales.” The new information the team collects on killer whale body condition will be provided to fisheries managers responsible for ensuring that killer whales have enough of the salmon prey they need.
Public Salons typically occur twice a year in Vancouver, once in the spring and once in the fall. They offer opportunities for speakers to present public policy ideas and promote public discussion of them. More details on upcoming Public Salons can be found at: globalcivic.org/public-salons.