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Wildlife watch!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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A running joke among oceanographers who don’t study whales and dolphins is the fact that everyone *thinks* they study whales and dolphins. For the people onboard who are so committed to their plankton, however, they sure do get excited about dolphins and whales. On Thursday, someone spotted some small whales in the water and as word got around, everyone went running out the door – literally, scrambling for their cameras and yelling, “Whales! Whales!”

The ship was surrounded by a pod of pilot whales – small, toothed whales that look a lot like dolphins.

Looking up what kind of whales these are, I learned a new word: spyhopping. That’s what it’s called when whales and dolphins pop their heads out of the water and look around. I think it’s a great verb, and I plan to use it as much as possible when I get home. Like when I’m sticking my head out my apartment window looking to see if the FexEx truck is coming, or peeking around the corner to see if there’s cheese at an event before deciding to attend.

We’ve also been seeing a lot of birds at this station. Thankfully, the library on the Knorr has a library full of books that help scientists who work with plankton identify seabirds. Turns out the ones we’re seeing are Northern Fulmars. They tend to sit in the water around our boat, which seems to indicate that there’s food for them in the area (or, they think we come bearing food).

We also saw humpback whales the other day, but they were too far away for a good picture. Let’s pretend I took this one – which in reality came from Wikipedia.

During this trip, I’ll be answering your questions about the science, this boat, and life onboard. Want to know how we search for plankton, why we’re here, or what the food is like? Just ask me! And if you’re wondering how I got here, check out the groups that made this adventure possible: Mind Open Media and COSEE NOW.

Previously in this series:

All Aboard: how you can be a part of our research blog
You wanted to know: what are these phytoplankton?
You wanted to know: what am I bringing to sea?
Greetings from Ponta Delgada! We set sail tomorrow.
Steaming North: how the scientists are trying to find plankton
The superstar sensor: what is a CTD?
Status Update: Day 3 at the Cyclonic Eddy
You wanted to know: what is this virus that infects the phytoplankton (Part One)
You wanted to know: what is this virus that infects the phytoplankton (Part Two)
Plankton hunting: Part art, Part science
You wanted to know: what’s the food like on board?

Rose Eveleth About the Author: Rose Eveleth is a producer, designer, writer and animator based in Brooklyn. She's got a degree in ecology from U.C. San Diego, and a masters in journalism from NYU. Now, she makes sciencey stuff for places like The New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider and OnEarth. Follow on Twitter @roseveleth.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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