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Museums, whales, and citizen science

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

Appropriately situated in Reykjavík’s harbour district, Whales of Iceland is the biggest 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 have been 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 had been the principle focus of the exhibition: an opportunity for guests to expertise the true dimension of those gigantic marine animals, and to be taught slightly about every of the species on show. Nevertheless, this focus is now evolving and Zooniverse is ready to play an vital 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 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 find out about cetaceans themselves, but additionally how scientists examine these fascinating and complicated 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, because of Zooniverse, our latest exhibit will embody a citizen science station the place anybody can have a shot at being a scientist! We’ll characteristic a variety of Zooniverse tasks for guests to select from, giving them a wide range of totally different marine mammal species and totally different elements of wildlife ecology to find out about.

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 prospect to marvel on the dimension and sweetness of those fantastic 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 remains to be in its early phases. 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 plenty of potential citizen scientists! In ecology, we’d name this a mutualistic symbiosis – or, in different phrases, everybody wins! Our museum friends can present worthwhile contributions to scientific tasks everywhere in 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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