Museums, whales, and citizen science


Visitor submit from Eilidh O’Brien, Workers Scientist, Whales of Iceland Museum

Appropriately situated in Reykjavík’s harbour district, Whales of Iceland is the most important museum devoted to cetaceans in Europe. A lot of the area inside is devoted to life-sized fashions of the 23 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises which were sighted within the waters round Iceland all through historical past, some quite common whereas others are very uncommon. When the museum was based these fashions have been the principle focus of the exhibition: an opportunity for guests to expertise the true measurement of those gigantic marine animals, and to study somewhat about every of the species on show. Nonetheless, this focus is now evolving and Zooniverse is about to play an necessary half.

Iceland is a hotspot for cetaceans – and so, additionally for cetacean researchers! Some outstanding discoveries have been made right here within the final decade, from the primary recordings of humpback whales singing of their feeding grounds over winter, to the weird antagonistic interactions between killer whales and long-finned pilot whales. We need to spotlight this at Whales of Iceland in order that our museum isn’t just a spot to study cetaceans themselves, but in addition how scientists examine these fascinating and sophisticated animals, what this analysis has uncovered, and all of the issues that we nonetheless have no idea!

Along with studying in regards to the analysis occurring right here in Iceland, we need to give guests the chance to participate in some actual scientific initiatives. So, because of Zooniverse, our latest exhibit will embrace a citizen science station the place anybody can have a shot at being a scientist! We are going to characteristic a variety of Zooniverse initiatives for guests to select from, giving them quite a lot of totally different marine mammal species and totally different points of wildlife ecology to study.

Our intention is to make Whales of Iceland a extra interactive and thought-provoking expertise. We hope that our museum will proceed to supply guests the possibility to marvel on the measurement and sweetness of those fantastic creatures, but in addition to have interaction with the pure world in methods they could not have earlier than, and to really feel that they haven’t simply realized, however found.

This collaboration remains to be in its early levels. With the inexperienced mild from Zooniverse Co-PI Dr. Laura Trouille, we’ve got already launched a scaled-down model of what we hope the ultimate exhibit might be, and it has been a extremely promising success! Museums present an ideal platform for citizen science; we’re a small museum comparatively talking, however our footfall in peak season will be greater than 400 individuals in a day. That’s a number of potential citizen scientists! In ecology, we might name this a mutualistic symbiosis – or, in different phrases, everybody wins! Our museum company can present useful contributions to scientific initiatives all around the world, whereas on the identical time gaining first-hand perception into the lifetime of a whale researcher.

We’re so excited to develop and develop our collaboration with Zooniverse, in addition to different citizen science initiatives. Our completed analysis exhibit might be unveiled very quickly – watch this area!


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