CA Sea Grant State Fellow Works on Ship Strike Issue

Andrea Dransfield

California Sea Grant funds a lot of fellows and researchers doing great things. One of the fellows is Andrea Dransfield, who was kind enough to write this guest post for us.

I’m a California Sea Grant State Fellow working in resource protection with the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS). I started in February, and it’s been an amazing experience so far, not to mention, I get to live in Santa Barbara, which is beautiful. I work with Chris Mobley, Sanctuary Superintendent, Michael Murray, Deputy Superintendent, and Sean Hasting, Resource Protection Coordinator. The staff here at the CINMS are supportive, resourceful and driven, and it’s great to be a part of the family! I enjoy the flexibility of working on a variety of different resource management projects which allows me to gain new experience in other areas of interest.

My main projects are working with the Sanctuary Advisory Council and working on the whale ship strike issue. In the Santa Barbara Channel region, there is an abundance of blue, humpback, fin and other large migratory whales. This area also has some of the busiest vessel traffic in the United States. Unfortunately, where vessels and whales overlap there is a heightened risk of ship strikes that can cause serious injuries or death to whales.

An exciting new project that I’m working on is helping to solve this issue of ship strikes. The CINMS in partnership with EarthNC is developing a whale sightings app called ‘Spotter.’ This app will make it possible for anyone, anywhere to log whale sighting data! All data collected uploads to a collective database in the cloud, which can then, in turn, be relayed to mariners to alert them of whale presence. This app will be merged with ‘Whale Alert,’ the app that was created by Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to protect right whales on the east coast.

We’ve been testing the beta version out in the field on local whale watching boats, and it’s going really well so far. Common dolphins were constant companions on our trip out on the water. We also sighted the first blue whale of the season in the channel and even had a friendly fin whale approach our ship! We hope to get the final version out to the sanctuaries and public soon!

Written by Andrea Dransfield