Museums, whales, and citizen science

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

Appropriately positioned 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 primary focus of the exhibition: an opportunity for guests to expertise the true dimension of those gigantic marine animals, and to be taught just a little about every of the species on show. Nonetheless, this focus is now evolving and Zooniverse is about to play an vital half.

Iceland is a hotspot for cetaceans – and so, additionally for cetacean researchers! Some exceptional 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 bizarre antagonistic interactions between killer whales and long-finned pilot whales. We wish to spotlight this at Whales of Iceland in order that our museum isn’t just a spot to study cetaceans themselves, but additionally how scientists research 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 wish to give guests the chance to participate in some actual scientific tasks. So, due to Zooniverse, our latest exhibit will embody a citizen science station the place anybody can have a shot at being a scientist! We are going to function a spread of Zooniverse tasks for guests to select from, giving them quite a lot of completely different marine mammal species and completely different elements 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 dimension and wonder of those great creatures, but additionally to interact with the pure world in methods they could not have earlier than, and to really feel that they haven’t simply discovered, however found.

This collaboration continues to be in its early phases. With the inexperienced gentle from Zooniverse Co-PI Dr. Laura Trouille, we now have already launched a scaled-down model of what we hope the ultimate exhibit shall be, and it has been a very promising success! Museums present an ideal platform for citizen science; we’re a small museum comparatively talking, however our footfall in peak season could be greater than 400 folks 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 visitors can present helpful contributions to scientific tasks all around the world, whereas on the similar 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 shall be unveiled very quickly – watch this area!

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