Is Whale Wars a waste of money?

Portobello Road

Lindsey Peavey is  a PhD student in the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  She is a marine ecologist whose research seeks to find a sustainable balance between human resource use and species conservation.  You can follow her work on Twitter (@lepeavey) and her blog, turtlesinthedeep.org.

Last December, I sat down to enjoy a pizza pie and draft beer with my friend Neal, a 6-foot, 5-inch, 280-lb. (think offensive lineman), die-hard conservative republican. He was giddy with excitement to talk with me about one of his favorite TV shows, Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars.” Knowing that I’m a tree hugger by nature and a marine biologist by trade, he thought an hour of “Save the whales!” camaraderie was ahead. He was shocked when I let out a long sigh and confessed, “I’m not a fan of Whale Wars.”

Neal was completely deflated. He demanded to know why I didn’t like the show. Shouldn’t I, of all people, be Sea Shepherd’s No. 1 fan? I offered my gripes: It’s outrageously expensive to operate a vessel like Sea Shepherd’s SSS Steve Irwin in the extremely volatile and dangerous environment of intercepting Japanese whaling vessels in the Antarctic — on the order of tens of thousands of dollars a day. Although funds are available to support these operations, the return on investment is unclear. How many whales are actually being saved?

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#SciFund Challenge: Turtles in the Deep

#SciFund is a month-and-a-half long initiative to raise funds for a variety of scientific research projects. Project leaders post a project description and an appeal for funds, and members of the public are invited to make small donations to projects that they deem worthy. Donations come with rewards such as access to project logs, images from fieldwork, your name in the acknowledgements of publications, among other possibilities. Many of these projects are marine or conservation themed. Over the next week, we’ll highlight some of our favorites. Please take a look at these projects and, should you so desire, send some financial support their way. If you do make a donation, let them know how you found out about their project and leave a comment (anonymous if you’d like) on this post letting us know.


Turtles in the Deep

Lindsey Peavey is a graduate student at the University of California (and formerly from the Duke University Marine Lab) who studies the ecology of large marine vertebrates, including sea turtles. She is currently tracking the foraging behavior of Olive Ridley sea turtles in the open ocean. Funding for this project will go towards covering travel expenses, satellite tracking tags, and supporting research interns.

As a nice bonus, her home institute will match funding, so your donation will count double. It’s a good enough project that we’ll even forgive her misuse of the term “deep” for “open ocean”, because we can’t all be as poetic as deep-sea biologists. Go check out Lindsey’s project page and pitch in to help a new graduate student get her research off the ground.