ARGOS USER STORIES
WhaleNet@WheelockCollege Interactive STEM Education Program
Story and photos provided by:
J. Michael Williamson
Director – WhaleNet@WheelockCollege
Associate Professor – Science
In 1993, WhaleNet received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop the interactive WhaleNet program. WhaleNet was the first website to use actual, real-time satellite tracking data on the movements and migrations of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and turtles to enhance interest in STEM and environmental education. Since then WhaleNet has collected and posted data on over 180 marine animals that users may use for educational research exercise and experiences.
Students of all ages are enamored with marine mammals; that provides the “hook” to getting them more seriously involved in STEM and environmental education. At its peak, WhaleNet receives more than 1 million hits per month. Being unique, WhaleNet was invited to display the program at Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and the U.S. Pavilion at the 1998 World Expo in Portugal.
WhaleNet and the Mingan Island Cetacean Study collaborate to satellite tagged blue whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (http://whale.wheelock.edu/whalenet-stuff/StopBm2016/). Two satellite tags revealed movement in the Western North Atlantic Ocean which sheds some light on blue whale movements in the northern hemisphere winter months.
Over the years, WhaleNet has collaborated with the New England Aquarium, Mystic Aquarium, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, various components at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Duke University Marine Lab, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Virginia Aquarium Northwest Atlantic Seal Research Consortium, The Marine Animal Identification Network, the Riverhead Foundation, Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center, University of New England, and numerous other research institutions in the satellite tagging program.
WhaleNet continues to enhance education through the use of real-time satellite tagging data and research. This is an educational resource to generate student (and the general public) interest in science, research, the marine system, environmental sciences and advanced technologies.
Aside from maintaining the WhaleNet website, J. Michael “Mike” Williamson — a retired Wheelock College associate professor — continues to apply the research data to STEM education. He guest lectures, assists schools in developing their marine science programs, collaborates with international research programs, and uses satellite tagging to bring real-time data to students of all ages around the world.
For the past 12 years, Williamson has been the visiting scientist at St. Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School in Perth, Western Australia where we are developing an on-line matching database to identify individual blue whales, humpback whales, southern right whales, Orca, and Manta rays. We are planning to expand this program to include more satellite tagging in Western Australia.
WhaleNet can be located at http://whale.wheelock.edu/Welcome.html
WhaleNet Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WhaleNetWheelockCollege/
WhaleNet Satellite Tagging base page: http://whale.wheelock.edu/whalenet-stuff/stop_cover.html
Argos satellite tagged gray seal (tags fall off during the molting season; they're epoxied in place)
Gray Seal 39395's Argos track, and you can continue to monitor this seal's movement on WhaleNet's website at
Blue whales satellite tagged in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (2015 & 2016)
A research biologist uses a modified compressed air gun (above) to "shoot" a satellite tag into the whale (shown in the left image).