Women on the Move: Technology and Animal Tracking, Part I: Sea

Women on the Move: Technology and Animal Tracking, Part I: Sea

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engineering, and math - also known as STEM.  These women scientists track animals across the land,   sea, and the sky. Today, we're going to dive into  how and why scientists track aquatic species.   My name is Shelby. I'm a marine mammal  scientist and intern at the Smithsonian   Environmental Research Center. My pronouns are  she/her/hers, and I will be your host for today.   This is the first webinar out of a series of  three leading up to Earth Day this Friday.  

This series was made possible by the American Women's  History Initiative and is a collaborative event   between the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute,   Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and  Smithsonian's Earth Optimism Initiative.   As we begin this event we would like to acknowledge  that our digital and non-digital spaces are   meeting across indigenous lands of various native  peoples. Specifically, we would like to acknowledge   the Piscataway Conoy tribe, Accohannock tribe, and  the Esselen tribe whose peoples were the original   stewards of the lands which are now known as  Washington DC, Maryland, and Big Sur, California.   We gratefully acknowledge the native peoples  on whose ancestral homelands we gather   as well as the diverse and vibrant  native communities who live here today.   We are grateful for their past and continued  stewardship of the land. Today, we will travel  

from where I am at the National Zoo in Washington DC  to the Eastern coast to Maryland and then all   the way to the Western coast of California to  meet two amazing women who track aquatic species.   During this program, you will gain knowledge  of wildlife in wild places, understand the   roles of two Smithsonian women in STEM,  and learn how tracking is saving these animals.   Before we say hello to our guests, you will  see two polls launch up onto your screen.   While you take some time to answer these polls,  I will go over the format of our program today.   This webinar is live captioned. You'll want to locate  that "CC" button at the bottom of the screen for   those to appear. We have both English and Spanish  captioning available for this webinar series.  

You will also notice this program is being  interpreted in American Sign Language.   This feature is best viewed from a desktop computer  instead of a tablet or phone. If you're having   trouble with either service, please chat with us so  that we can assist you. Remember, this is a webinar  

so we cannot see or hear you. However, we encourage  you to engage with us in a number of ways.   You already saw that we will be launching polls  throughout the program. Additionally, you'll see   that the question and answer function is open.  Please use the Q&A anytime to ask questions of   our guests. Try to keep your questions on topic.  You can check under the "my questions" column   to see if your question has already been answered.  Today's program will be about 40 minutes with   an additional 15 minutes at the end for a live  question and answer session. There, we will answer  

as many questions as time allows. Educators, if you  are streaming for a whole class be sure to keep   your keyboard close to chime in on their behalf.  Lastly, you'll see the chat is open to message us,   but first let's take a look  at the answer to your polls. Wow! Looks like most of you wanted to live in  the ocean. A lot of us would love to have gills  

to breathe underwater. I know, I would, too.  Now I want you to find that chat feature and tell me   where you're joining us from, as well as  your guesses for the answer to this joke.   While you do that, I want to quickly introduce you  to my team who is helping behind the scenes - Erika,    Kaden, Hanna, and Shellie are here from  the National Zoo answering your questions.   We also have a special chat expert - Karen McDonald,   who is the head of STEM program coordination at  the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.   Also joining us from the Smithsonian Environmental  Research Center is Lexi who's going to be helping   us out. You may see some responses from them in  the chat and in the Q&A. Wow, we have people  

joining from all over! Lake Tahoe, California.  West Virginia. Wisconsin. Maryland. I'm so excited and   happy to have everybody. Wow, Netherlands.  That's so far away. We're so happy that you're here. Now I'm gonna throw up the answer to the that joke.  I hope everybody put their guesses in.   Fish keep their money in a riverbank. Okay, so once again welcome to "Women on the Move!"  Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?   Do you have a favorite animal or animals that  you might like to work with? The scientists   we're going to meet today work with aquatic  animals or species that live in water habitats.   Not long ago, many women and girls were told that  they couldn't be a scientist or study animals.  

Today, only a third of all scientists are women  which is why it's extra special that we have   two amazing women here in STEM to talk with us about how they became scientists studying   whales and river herring. All the way from  the Smithsonian's Environmental Research   Center out in Maryland, I am thrilled  to welcome Kim Richie to the program.   Hi, Kim and welcome to Women on the Move!  Would you like to introduce yourself? >>Kim: Hey, Shelby. Thanks for having me. I'm Kim Richie.  I am a fisheries conservation technician at SERC   as well as a data manager for the ACT Network or  Atlantic Cooperative Telemetry Network. >>Shelby: Oh, cool.   Thank you so much for joining us today. So that's a super  long title. Let's break that down a little bit. You said you were a fisheries research technician.  I assume that has something to do with fish, right?  

>>Kim: Yeah, absolutely. I get to play with fish for  my job, but basically I'm responsible for conducting   the field work in... to do the research for the  projects that we're funded for. >>Shelby: Very cool,  and then you also mention the Atlantic Cooperative  Telemetry Network. So, what do you do for them?   >>Kim: Yeah, so I'm a data manager that helps facilitate  data sharing between different researchers so in   my network there's researchers from Maine all the  way down to North Carolina, so if you look at that   map it's those kind of green dots sort of the  Mid-Atlantic Northeast United States and then    I connect researchers um within that network as well  as networks, you know, in Canada and down to Florida   to help facilitate data sharing. >>Shelby: Wow, that's  awesome. That's such a huge area and that sounds  

super important. Fun! We're going to dive deeper  into how you track fish in a little bit, but first   let's talk a little bit about how you got here.  Did you know you always wanted to study animals?   >>Kim: I think I always knew that I wanted, you know,  I liked being outside. I liked working with animals.   Um, so when I was little, you know, like everybody  else I would go hiking in the woods with my   grandfather, you know, I grew up riding horses, but  I think my true passion kind of grew in college   and then later, like you Shelby, I was actually  an intern at SERC and I started working with   blue crabs and that kind of really just grew  my passion into the aquatic side of research   and you know studying animal movement and  here I am today - a staff member at SERC.   That's awesome! So you talked about spending a  lot of time outdoors with your grandpa. Um,   did you have any women mentors growing up that led  you to study science? >>Kim: I did. Um, I grew... I came 

from a family with really strong women who always,  you know, wanted you to, you know, be what you can be   and don't... don't let fear kind of stop you from  doing what you want to do and just enjoy working.   >>Shelby: Awesome. That's really cool, and um, do you work  with any women though now in your current job   that you get to do science with? >>Kim: I certainly do.  Um, I do look up to my uh, women co-workers and   then as well as, you know, there are definitely  still a lot of men in the field but it is...  

there's a lot more females, you know, coming along the way, too. >>Shelby: Oh, cool. Well, so you get to work   with a bunch of different women which is really cool  um and now that you're seeing more and more women   hop into uh this kind of research how does it  feel to be a potential role model for these   women and girls interested in pursuing a career  in STEM? >>Kim: It's a true privilege. Each woman's path   to research is very different and mine is, you know,  different from everybody else's so I really enjoy   sharing that with them. One of my favorite parts  about kind of mentoring interns is you know   watching them kind of grow along their career path  and you know see where they go down the future.  

>>Shelby: That's awesome. That's such a cool story, and  I'm so excited to learn more about your career now.   You mentioned earlier the Atlantic Cooperative  Telemetry Network collects data on many different   aquatic species. So what species do you work  with specifically as a fisheries technician?   >>Kim: Yeah, so my lab works with a bunch of different  species. We've tracked cownose rays and sharks   all the way down to blue crabs but our current  research is working with river herring who are a   migratory species. Um, the term is just collectively  for two different species that, as you can see,  

look very similar, um, alewife and blueback hearing.  >>Shelby: Wow, they look so similar. That's amazing that you   can even tell them apart. Audience, do you notice any  differences? Why don't you put them in the chat.   I noticed some differences myself, for example the colors are a little bit different.  

Um, Kim, will you tell us how you can tell the  difference? >>Kim: Sure, yeah, it can certainly be tricky.   Um, some of my co-workers that see them on a  day-to-day basis are better at it than I am   but alewife tend to have a little bit thicker of  a body, as you can kind of see from the picture.   They also have a bigger eye and their lower bottom  lip kind of protrudes out more than on a blueback,   and alewife also prefer a little bit colder  water than blueback, so alewife kind of show up   in the river before the blueback show up. >>Shelby:  That's awesome. We have lots of those same observations   coming through. People are saying "yes, they look  thicker", "they have the different colorations".   Thank you so much for telling  us how you figure that out.  

So Kim, why are you interested in  tracking these two species in particular?   >>Kim: So, uh river herring are an important part of  the ecosystem. Uh, they're an important food source for   many other predatory species such as birds or  larger fish. They also can provide nutrients   and um, they're even more special because they,  you know, do occupy fresh water systems as well as   the ocean so it's really kind of across all areas.  >>Shelby: Yeah, that's super special. So they're an important   source of food for really special animals in  our ecosystem. Um, why are they coming in to   the oceans and the river though in the first place? I mean into the river from the oceans,   excuse me. >>Kim: Yeah, so they spend their adult life  in the ocean and then when they are spawning or   having babies um they migrate to fresh water  you know, rivers and streams and, you know,   kind of estuaries to spawn. >>Shelby: Wow, that sounds like  a really big trip. Hey audience, do you know of  

any other animals that live and breed in two  different locations? I'll give you a hint...  our second guest today studies some animals that  migrate and have babies in different places, too.   Put your guesses in the chat. Olivia is saying  salmon. Ducks. Lots of people are saying salmon. I'm so happy everybody's... whales. That's awesome.  Frogs maybe. These are all great guesses  

All right friends let's see the answer of  just a few animals that also migrate and breed.   You were right with salmon, migratory birds,  and whales are all examples of animals that   migrate between two different habitats.  Kim, besides river herring be being super cool   and important for the ecosystem, why are you  tracking them? >>Kim: So we're tracking them because   their population crashed in the 1970s and that  almost put them on the endangered species list,   so we want to learn more about their habitat and,  you know, how their population is doing so we can   help protect them. >>Shelby: Oh my goodness, that's super serious. So I know that when a species declines  

it can have bad effects on other species in  the ecosystem. For example, it would mess up   the entire food web because eagles wouldn't have  something to eat. What caused this decline though?   >>Kim: Sadly we have. People have. Um, adult fish that  are out in the ocean are caught as bycatch   or basically non-targeted fish when you're  you know out fishing for say salmon or other   species but the other major impact was you know  the building of dams that happened, you know, not as   much now. Most of them were pre-existing, but dams  were a big detriment to their population. >>Shelby: Wow,   and you can see some examples of a dam on the screen here. So, students why do you think dams would be   an issue for the river herring? Put your guesses,  or a scientist would say "hypotheses" in the chat.

I'm going to take a second to read. Susan says it might be too high. Ian says it might  be difficult for them to travel. Too high to jump over.  They can't migrate. Wow, everybody. You've got...  hit the nail right on the head. That's correct.   It creates a potential roadblock and the herring  can't get to where they need to go to breed   and to spawn. Isn't that right, Kim? >>Kim: Yeah, that's  exactly right. Um, dams definitely impede their   uh movement upstream and that that contributes  to the trouble, the struggles, for them to spawn   which is why we study their migration to see  if they're able to move around the dam and then   you know act kind of normally. Um sometimes,  you know, work can also... our research also   helps contribute to see, you know, is it  important if we, if we decided to move the   dam would that actually be beneficial or not so  our work currently on the Patapsco River   in you know the Baltimore area this is, the the video  you were looking at was actually Bloede dam which   had been removed, so our research is studying  you know the effects of that dam removal, you know,   if their, if their response is going well. >>Shelby: Awesome.  So one option is to remove the dam altogether  

um but I have actually heard of something called a  "fish ladder" could you talk about that a little bit?   >>Kim: Sure, um sometimes different dams will  have these fish ladders built into them   that can be successful. They're not always  successful depending on their construction,   but it is definitely more effective to just not  have a dam so the fish can, you know, act in their   normal natural habitat. >>Shelby: That's really cool, though.  I think that's such a creative tool that we could   possibly use, either removing the dam to help the  fish migrate or even a fish ladder. So everybody,   I want you to put on your scientist hat. I'm going  to put a poll up on the screen. If you discovered  

that river herring were not able to make it past  a dam, what would you do to fix it? A) We have leave   the dam as it is. B) Put in some fish ladders, or C) safely blow up the dam to remove it. I'm going to   give you a few more moments here and we'll close  the poll in five, four, three, two, one. Let's see. Wow, lots of you guys said to put in fish ladders,  but I know one thing that I would want to do would   be to safely blow up the dam. That's so great.  Does that actually happen, Kim? >>Kim: Yeah, it does.   There is a lot of dams being removed, you can see in  this video. This is Bloede dam that I had just talked about, um and it came out in the winter of 2018,  um so our... like I was saying, our project kind of   is looking how the fish are, you know, using the  habitat below where the dam was and now are they   using the habitat above where the dam is and yes,  they are. We have um successfully, you know, found  

fish above in the, in the newly river stretch  that they weren't able to access before.   >>Shelby: That's amazing, and I'm so happy that you were able  to figure that out otherwise we would have had no clue.  So you're studying river herring because  they're ecologically important and they've also   become endangered, close to endangered, due to  human actions. The research and work that you do  

can help us decide if dams need to be changed  or removed so that we can bring the species back.  I'm so excited to explore the technology  in just how you monitor the river herring, Kim.   We'll talk about that later. Isa asked exactly how  you track them, which we'll get that, to there, that   in a second, but before we do that let's swim  back out into the ocean just like the river herring  after spawning and see how our next guest  tracks a much bigger aquatic animal out there.   Now we'll travel all the way across America  to meet our other researcher Sarah Mallette.  

Hi, Sarah. Welcome to Women on the Move!  Can you introduce yourself?   >>Sarah: Um, yes. My name is Sarah and I'm a PhD student  at George Mason University and also a visiting   scientist at SERC. I'm currently conducting  marine mammal research from Big Sur, California.   >>Shelby: Oh my gosh, so Sarah studies marine mammals. Friends,  do you know what the largest marine mammal in the   world is? Put it in the chat. I know there's lots  to choose from, so let's take some guesses here.   I'm going to start reading answers. A blue whale,  

blue whales, oh I'm hearing a lot of blue whales.  Humpback whales, whale sharks, let's see... It is a blue whale. That's so good everyone.  So Sarah, do you study blue whales? No I don't study   blue whales, um but I, um, blue whales are a type  of baleen whale which is what I focus on for my research. 

>>Shelby: Amazing. Um, you mentioned the word baleen.  For those of us who maybe haven't heard that word before   can you explain what a baleen whale is?  >>Sarah: Sure, so basically um baleen is a filter   feeding mechanism to filter out small prey such  as phytoplankton, fish, and krill, which is a shrimp   like animal. If you take a look at your fingernails  and rub one with another finger along your   thumbnail, for example, this same material is what  baleen is made out of and it feels very similar.   However, baleen is much larger and it's  organized into plates as you can see in this image   on the left and these um, these plates is the  mechanism that... which um allows the animal   to filter out that, um the prey species, um so  basically you know, simply put, baleens...  

baleen whales, they open their mouths, they scoop up  water, and in this process they push out that water   leaving the small prey uh  remaining in which they then eat.   >>Shelby: Oh my goodness. Sounds like they might have some  bad table manners spitting out all the water.   That's so cool that we have so much in common.  Both of us having this fingernail-like material, but   what about whales with sharp pointy teeth?  They don't filter feed their food, do they?   >>Sarah: No, they don't. So toothed whales they...  instead of baleen uh baleen plates they have teeth just  

like us and these teeth are used for  grasping their prey and so holding on   tight to the prey and depending upon what they're eating, for example squid versus fish, the size and the  shape of their teeth can be very different.  For example a sperm whale which has much larger teeth   versus a harbor porpoise which have very small,  conical teeth or cone-like shaped teeth. So it's   a different feeding strategy compared to filter  feeding baleen whales. >>Shelby: Very cool. I bet a lot of us   are learning that there's both baleen and toothed  whales out there and they have different kinds of   feeding strategies based on their prey. So students,  feel your teeth with your tongue. Are they hard?  

Are they soft? Do you think you would be a baleen  whale or a toothed whale? I think I'd be a toothed   whale because I've got some pretty hard teeth  to grab different food instead of filter feeding.   So Sarah, did you always know you wanted  to study whales when you were growing up?   >>Sarah: No, I knew I was interested in science. I was  intrigued by species and ecosystems. Growing up  I was surrounded by nature and I grew up going  out on the boat to desolate barrier islands on the  Eastern shore of Virginia, going fishing, crabbing with  my family and playing in the mud, so I've always   been an observer. I like watching things around me,  how species interact, how they feed, the timing of   when they're in an area, and both of my parents are  also in the environmental field so they provided   opportunities for me to gain experience working  on various environmental and wildlife conservation   projects at early age. >>Shelby: Oh, cool. So are there a lot  of women like you that are studying marine mammals?   >>Sarah: Um yes, actually. I um, I get to work with many  fantastic women who are researchers just like myself. 

>>Shelby: That's great. I'm so happy to hear that.  I studied marine mammals myself and specifically   I studied bottlenose dolphins in Florida.  What species are you currently focused on tracking?   >>Sarah: So I mainly focus on humpback, minke, uh  fin whales, North Atlantic right whales,   and um sei whales as well, but a variety of  different baleen whale species. >>Shelby: Wow, they're   all super cool. You can see just a few of them up  here on the screen. So friends, Sarah has a fun fact   for us. I'm going to launch a poll here. Which of  these species that Sarah works with is not   actually a whale? Your options are a humpback  whale, a killer whale, a gray whale, or a right whale.  

You guys can think about it if you're in a class  together. I'm going to close the poll in a few   minutes, seconds here. Five, four, three,  two, one. Let's see what you guys thought. We had a lot of people saying killer whale.  

The next second guess was a right whale, so  Sarah, what's the correct answer to this poll?   Good job, um the correct answer is B) killer whale.  So killer whales are not actually whales   but part of the dolphin family. >>Shelby: That's awesome.  Everybody has a fun fact to tell people now   after this program. So Sarah, why are you tracking  all of these different species in the first place?   >>Sarah: The whales face many threats and  unfortunately most are related to humans.   They overlap in areas where... in coastal areas where  there's a lot of human use such as fishing and   shipping and early on whales were hunted for um,  by humans for food and their blubber was...  

their blubber or fat was used for oil and their bones  and teeth were used for various purposes including   art, another word is scrimshaw, and therefore  populations were decimated from hunting and are   now in the process of recovering from low numbers  and, at least for some species, so today they face   other human related threats - boat strikes and  entanglement and fishing gear are leading   causes of baleen whale death and injury, and they  travel these long distances and depending upon   the species um, they can be constantly exposed to  human use um, such as shipping and entanglements   and wind energy along the entire path so we  track whales to find ways to protect them.   >>Shelby: Awesome. That, yeah it sounds like really  important work. So way back when in, historically speaking,   they were hunted for their blubber or their  fat for oil, and then other parts were used.   We don't do that anymore today but now we have these  big vessels shipping all these different um things   around the world for us and nets that they can get  tangled up in and then they can also sometimes get   into a collision with the boat. So Sarah, how do  we help protect the whales? How do we fix this?  

>>Sarah: So one of the ways is understanding when and where  whales are located, their movement patterns and   how they use these areas of high human use and  that way we can then direct management action our   priorities to these times and these places. So,  for example, we can establish marine protected areas   or strict fishing in areas when  endangered whales are known to occur   in high numbers, reduce the likelihood of  becoming entangled or struck by vessels.   >>Shelby: Yeah, so it sounds like you take the research that you do, figuring out when and where whales are,   and then you take that information to lawmakers like  congress people here in DC where I am, and what   those people can do then is help to establish  these protected areas where whales can be safe,   or they can create laws to help protect  the whales from harm. Is that right?   >>Sarah: That's exactly right, Shelby. >>Shelby: Awesome.  Nibal says that it sounds very fun to study whales and animals.  

Both you and Kim track these aquatic species,  so that we know where they go and so that they can help,  you can help protect them in their habitats.  Let's learn a little bit more about how you   track them. So both of your research projects  go towards saving the species that you work with,  which is amazing, but I bet it can be really  tricky studying animals that live in the water.   Put in the chat friends - what do you think might make Kim and Sarah's job tracking animals in   the water so hard to do. I can think so of some myself  but let's see what you guys have to say.  

Olivia says the ocean is so big. That is   exactly right, Olivia. Isabella says there's so many  fish. Hard to know which ones you're looking for. The animals might hide because they're under water.  It's difficult to see the animals. They might get   scared. Might be hard to install the trackers themselves. These are all great ideas friends.  

So we're going to go back to our  first guest that we spoke to today,.   Kim, what is your biggest challenge  tracking animals in the water?   >>Kim: I mean the comments really kind of nailed it.  They kind of hit all the points, but one of our   biggest issues is that you know river herring when  they're in the rivers, the rivers can be murky.   It's hard to see. You could be standing on the riverbank  and you might not see anything so one might assume  

that they're not there, but that could be untrue  because they could just be, you know, either hiding   because it's murky water or that they're  just, you know, upriver hiding in a deep hole.   >>Shelby: So it could be really hard to find them. You're,  you know, you're not going to be fishing like normal,   so how do you catch the fish then to track them?  >>Kim: Yeah, so we use a method called "electrofishing"   um which, you know, we have a boat that kind of  looks a little funny to, you know, see it driving   down the road but it's basically it sends out an  electric current into the water that kind of just   quickly stuns the fish. It doesn't hurt them. Um but,  it just stuns them as like, you know, they kind of  

stop moving. They float or kind of jump to  the surface as you can see in the video,   and they're stunned for a couple of seconds.  We try to net them as quickly as possible.   Then they go into the boat um  onto a lot... into a live well,   you know, that's getting pumped with oxygen so that  they can, you know, kind of recover and then they   swim around normally. >>Shelby: That's really cool.  I've never heard of this kind of fishing before.   Um, so Kim mentioned that, you know, they're tracking  these fish in the river before they go back out   to the ocean so Sarah, what kind of challenges do  you have tracking whales that are out in the ocean?   >>Sarah: So one of our biggest challenges is actually  locating the whales in the first place.   Um, the whales migrate all over the ocean and  they stay underwater for very long periods   of time in some cases and for some species,  so even though they may be much bigger than   river herring they can be very tough to find for  these reasons. >>Shelby: So what happens when you do find them?  

>>Sarah: So there are different options for tracking whales  and each has their advantages and disadvantages.   Um you can track whales by sight,  so observing and taking pictures,   by sound, so listening for them as they communicate  with others, or with trackers similar to what Kim   mentioned with the river herring. Um, so  basically attaching tags to the animal.   So most of my work focuses on tracking whales  by sight, that is conducting surveys by plane,   boat, and examining whales and dolphins that wash  up on the beach which we call "stranded" specimens.   >>Shelby: Very cool. So Sarah's not using  tracking devices like Kim   will use. So Kim, what kind of tracking  device and technology do you primarily use? >>Kim: We primarily use um acoustic tags, so these are  battery operated tags uh in the river herring   we're using like the kind of the third one from  the left, that smaller one with the little white   tape on it. These are acoustic tags and they're  battery powered and they're waterproof so they get  

implanted into the fish. >>Shelby: Oh my gosh, they are super  super tiny. So how do you get the trackers into   the fish? >>Kim: Yeah, so we, I talked about what electro-  fishing is. So basically when we have the fish onboard   they're in a live well that you can kind of see in this video. They come out of the live well.   They go onto what is, you know, a surgery table um,  and that's, you know, kind of still... they're partly   submerged in water so that way their gills can  stay wet and then we just make a tiny little   incision, insert the tag into their body cavity,  and then we'll do like a quick stitch just so   that it can heal nicely and it doesn't seem to  affect their movement or anything because it's   not too heavy for them, and then they just get  released. >>Shelby: Oh my goodness, so it's like you're  

a fish doctor as well! So once they get  in the water then how does that acoustic tag work?   So I said that the tags are battery operated so they send out these acoustic signals   that are picked up by acoustic receivers  and those receivers are kind of deployed   all over the world. If you remember that map  that you kind of showed in the beginning.   Basically this fish, or whichever species  has a tag in it, swims by any receiver   and that receiver picks up the signal from the tag  and, you know, leaves it, you know, what time it is,   what the tag number is, and then that information  can be downloaded it, downloaded, and then processed   to figure out what species or what tags went by.  >>Shelby: And you mentioned that these tags are waterproof   and battery powered. We have a question here  from Denise. How long does a tracker last?   >>Kim: So it kind of varies. Um, the picture with all  the tags, the smaller the tag the smaller the battery.  So like the tags that we're using, um will  last maybe a year but some of the larger tags   that you would put in like sharks or even whales,  they can go up to 10 years. >>Shelby: Still that's a lot  

of information that you can get from these fish  in just a year because they're going to migrate   into the river and back out into the ocean, so  they'll be all over the place. >>Kim: That's what   we hope. >>Shelby: So you're getting information from all over  the world with these acoustic receiving stations.   Um, what sort of animals are you also  tracking that migrate all over the world?   >>Kim: Um, so we did a large project on cownose  rays and some of those rays actually had   10-year tags put in them, so we have tracked their  movements from, you know, the Chesapeake Bay all the   way down to Florida. They... we call them kind of like  snowbirds so that they like to go to Florida for   the winter when it's warm and then they come up  to the Chesapeake Bay, you know, in the spring to   spawn and raise their young and hang out and then  they'll go back again to Florida in the wintertime.   >>Shelby: Very cool. So these animals can travel all over  the world just like the whales can. So Sarah,  

since you're not using tracking devices, how does  watching the whales from boats and airplanes help   you monitor them? >>Sarah: So um, we... from... basically  there are several ways to track whales, um such as from   planes and boats like you mentioned, and that  allows us to document the location, um the date   and the time of where a whale was observed,  its behavior such as whether the animal is feeding   or if it had calves with it, and it also allows us  to take pictures to identify species, in some cases   individuals. So collecting images of distinguishing  features on, for example, the tail or a dorsal fin   of a humpback whale. These features are so unique  that they're like human fingerprints, so we can...   this... we use this technique to track whales across  their migratory routes between cold water feeding   areas and southern warm water calving areas,  and because most whales migrate these long   distances, documenting when and where and also what  species of whales are present, this helps us   put into protection different, basically different  places and different times um where, that they   are present. So, for example, areas where the  critically endangered North Atlantic right whale  

are known to seasonally feed and calve in these  areas boats must slow down to reduce the risk of   running into a whale, which has been a major  problem for the conservation of the species,   and one other thing that we do is we take pictures  of any injuries such as entanglements in rope   or boat strikes to monitor their condition over time. >>Shelby: Wow, that's really fascinating how you said   it's the markings on their flukes, or their tail,  can be like a fingerprint. You also mentioned a   dorsal fin, so for everybody that might not know  that's the fin that's on their back, right?   So that can be as distinctive as a fingerprint, too?  >>Sarah: That's right. >>Shelby: Wow, that's really cool.   It sounds like you're doing a lot of different things all  at the same time. You're first finding the whales,   you're taking their gps coordinates, you're  taking their picture and you're writing down   all the different behaviors and what they're doing  in an area so that then you can create those laws   like slowing down in these special areas for these  protected whales. It's a lot to keep track of. >>Sarah: It is,   but I bet you can do it, too. >>Shelby: Really? So that  sounds like a lot of fun everybody. Let's try  

some photo ID. On the screen there's a picture  of some flukes that we need to find the match to.   These photos were taken in different areas and many  years in between so it might be a little tricky.   Can you guys guess which fluke pair you need to  match the one in the top left hand corner? I'll let   you think about it. Sarah, what do we need to pay  attention to here as we're trying to do photo ID?   >>Sarah: So you would like to take a, um along the trailing  edge of the fluke so um the inner most part there   can be different types of uh shapes, so  they can have like these little scalloped   notches out of the um, out of that trailing edge.  You can see the tips of the of the fluke they can   be different shapes, um more narrow or wider.  The coloration um, so how much black compared to white   and scars along those fluke blades are  important to keep track of. >>Shelby: All right everybody.  

Hopefully Sarah has helped give you a few hints here. I'm going to close the poll in five, four,   three, two, one. Let's see our answers. Lots of people are saying D.  So Sarah, what do you think the answer is?  >>Sarah: That's correct, D. >>Shelby: Awesome, good job everyone.   So everybody, today we have learned that Kim used  electronic acoustic tags to track herring during   their migration spawn in the rivers while Sarah  relies on photo ID and mapping techniques to track   where the whales travel, different methods for  monitoring two different aquatic specie. We have   now reached the question and answer answer portion  of our program. I know some folks may need to go so  

we will launch our closing polls now before we  jump into this Q&A. Keep those questions coming. To start things off, I'm going to ask both of you, do you have any advice for young girls   who are interested in STEM topics and who  want to become researchers like you someday? >>Kim: Sure, yeah. I think, I think the most important  thing is to do something, do what makes you happy   even if it's, you know, not something that, you know,  even if you're a little scared that it might not fit  or that you don't feel like you belong  just do whatever makes you happy and   even if you head down one road you can always kind  of divert off of it and head down another path.   >>Shelby: Yeah, you can always change your mind. Sarah, do you  have any advice? >>Sarah: Yeah, absolutely um I'd say get   experience in the field through internships,  volunteer positions, to figure out what you   are really interested in and also importantly  what you do not like in a particular position.  

Um, I participated in an amazing program for  the Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation   and also worked at a Smithsonian facility  down in Florida to work with coral reefs   and both were really fantastic opportunities.  Um, so I would say, you know, get experience in the   field but also connect with a mentor. Find   a role model that shares similar interests   and ask for their advice along the way. Um as I mentioned I had the privilege of working with many   amazing role models, but these people helped  me navigate through opportunities um, determine   which skill sets are most important, it would be  most useful for becoming successful in my field.  

>>Shelby: Okay. Yeah, those are all really good points  of advice. One thing that I'd like to say as well,   just like Kim, is find out what you like to do  and if it makes you happy just to pursue it,   and I know that I have had a really fun time doing  internships like Sarah suggested so these are all   great points of advice. So let's hop into our Q&A here. I know we have lots and lots of questions   that people are asking. So first, Kim this one's  for you. Allie has a question about the dams.   They said "How is a dam helpful?" >>Kim: So I think there's,  you know, kind of many different reasons. It can be used  

to control flooding, um you know, back in probably  the 1900s they were built to, you know, for mills to   make flour. They were built to do energy. A lot  of kind of different resources that now we have   more modern technology to create or make and so  a lot of the dams that people are kind of, you know,   trying to research about removing is because  they're kind of inoperable or they're just,   you know, kind of decaying at this point  but at one time they did have a purpose.   >>Shelby: So at one time they were helpful but now we,  as we have done more research, and research   like what you're doing, you found out that maybe  they weren't as helpful as they once were and   need to be changed or removed. That makes a lot  of sense. Um, our next question is from Olivia.   So Sarah, they're asking when you're tracking  the whales where are you seeing them going?   Well, it depends upon the species but for baleen  whales they tend to feed in high latitudes so   for example in the Gulf of Maine or Bay of Fundy there's really cold nutrient rich water   in the northern latitudes, so they feed there and  they move South to calving areas in more tropical   waters such as off of um, for right whales off of  Florida or for humpback whales off of Cape Verde   Islands and in the Caribbean, so basically  tropical water. So they're moving from cold   waters down to warm waters to to feed and to calf.  >>Shelby: Awesome. That's really cool and it's also  

neat that it depends on the species where they're going. They're not all going to the same place.  So our next question is really good. It's from Sophie. Kim, what   happens when birds eat tagged herring?  Can they get... can they poop the tag out? >>Kim: Essentially, yes. Um, there is a company  that has created tags that actually   have the tag number changes if the animal  has been digested, which is super cool.   We unfortunately have not had the funds to purchase  such a tag but there definitely are different   tags out there that you can kind of track the  predators as well as the prey, but essentially   if our tag is lost it's just kind of a part of  doing research. >>Shelby: Okay, and if a predator eats  

the fish that's been tagged, does that tracker hurt the predator in any way? >>Kim: Nope. Uh, they're   all coated with kind of a special coating that it  just it kind of doesn't even know that it's there.   >>Shelby: Okay, awesome. So Braylon has a question for you Kim,  as well. They want to know "What is your favorite   sea animal to study?" >>Kim: Ooh, that is a good question.  Um, I did really enjoy tracking the cownose rays.  

It was really fun to kind of see their migrations,  you know, all the way down to Florida every single   year and then all the way back into, you know, kind  of the river that we tagged them in so that was,   that was a lot of fun. >>Shelby: Yeah, they're super  cute, too so that would be really fun to be able to   work with such a fun and cute animal. >>Kim: Yes, they have a nice smile. >>Shelby: They do. So we have a question   here from Alex and Andrew. They... Sarah, they want  to know if you've ever worked with vaquitas.   >>Sarah: I have actually. Um, there was uh, there's only  a few... so vaquita are basically a very small porpoise   that live in um, a very small location in Baja,  Mexico and um there's, I think there's less than   uh 12 animals thought to live currently. The major  problem is um fishing, them being entangled or bycaught  

in fishing gear and so um in order to try  to preserve the species there was attempts to   um capture a few um and to keep them  in captivity because there were so few   animals there. They are projected to to  go extinct, and so during that capture   one of the animals actually died and so we... I was  part of a team that went down and did necropsies,   so similar to a human autopsy, to kind of figure  out more about that animal and um collected some   samples as well. >>Shelby: So even when an animal maybe  dies for different reasons, you're able to  

still get a lot of information from them and use  the science to see how you can help preserve the   species moving forward. So that's really, a really  important part of marine science. Um, you mentioned   the whales getting entangled in fishing gear  you also mentioned vaquita porpoises potentially   getting entangled. Do you have any tips, uh for ways  people could help reduce these entanglements or   things that they could do every day that might  help out the whales and even river herring?   >>Sarah: Sure, so it's a really complex problem.  Um, you know, people love seafood so, you know,  

people are catching fish who um, you know, feed  mostly humans. Um, there's other other uses as well.  Um, there's some new technology that's being  explored now and um, they're going through various   experimental trials now but there's a technology  called "ropeless fishing gear" and so basically   instead of lots of line in the water that  the whales could then become entangled in,   um instead they don't use ropes and so basically  they're mounted on the sea floor and then when the   fisherman wants to retrieve that gear basically  they send a sound into the water and a balloon   basically fills with air and brings that trap to  the surface. Another thing that people could do   is just, there's something called sustainable  seafood and there's various initiatives to   try to identify which types of fish are harvested  more sustainably and so you can check out various,   basically ranks of fish that are more sustainable  than others and choose that fish when you go to   the seafood store or restaurant so that you're  making more sustainable seafood choices.   >>Shelby: That's great. I know for myself I like to use the   Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood watch tracker. It's an app   that you can download on your phone and just  like Sarah was saying it can tell you which fish   are good choices versus bad choices so that we  can go and have a more sustainable choice at a   restaurant or when you're cooking at home. So Kim,  do you have any tips or tricks for people that   are trying to help protect habitats for river  herring or things that they could do at home? >>Kim: Yeah, I think, you know, there's a lot of things  you can do and I think one of them is just, you know,   that, you know, recycle um, you know, recycling,  you know, not throwing your trash, you know, into the   streams and polluting the water which then  also, you know, blocks up the fish ladders.  

If, you know, if there's a lot of trash in a fish  ladder then the water can't get through the ladder   and the fish could not get up it if they were  trying to use it um so just, you know, recycling   and being mindful of your use of plastic. >>Shelby: Those  are all great ideas. Thank you both so much. We have   a bunch more questions here. Olivia is asking "What  degrees do you need to be a marine biologist?"   Uh, Sarah, would you like to answer that one?  >>Sarah: Sure, so you can um, you know, while in high school   like later in high school or um early on in your  undergraduate degree you can seek out experience   opportunities so you don't even necessarily need  to wait to go to college to get experience in the field.  It definitely really helps to have um, you know, like a bachelor's um and then that allows you   to get this... a general understanding of um  the various sciences and what you would like   to pursue. Um, I have my masters and I'm going  for my PhD, so even though it's a lot of time,  

a dedication of time and money to be able to um  fund that um it's not necessary but it can make   um, you know, higher paying positions and you to  be able to select um, you know, different specific uh   projects or positions of interest a little bit  easier, but sometimes having higher degrees can   also overqualify you for certain positions so it  really depends upon what you are interested in   and again getting experience in the field.  You can, you know, chat with people to see um,   that you're working with to see what they have and  what works best in the field that you want to pursue.   >>Shelby: Yeah, and like you said earlier too, you know,  getting out there. Trying different things.  

I mean, just being out in nature in general and  observing and learning that way are really great   ways to get started on a career to be a marine  biologist or just an environmental scientist.   Kim, we've got lots of questions for you.  One question is "Do you ever catch fish in the dark?"   >>Kim: Um we do not work too much in the dark, but  the technologies that we use to track fish   and watch fish certainly run in the dark.   Like we have a sonar unit that, you know, runs 24 hours  

a day and that can video fish at night. When we  are kind of in bed sleeping it's there working   for us and watching the fish move upstream.  >>Shelby: That's really cool. You're using sonar technology.   That's so wild to track these fish. Another question  is "Have you ever worked with piranhas?"   >>Kim: I have not, but that that would be  an adventure. >>Shelby: That would be such   an adventure. Are there any other species  that you're excited to track one day?

>>Kim: That's a good question. I, you know, we've tracked  a lot of things so it's, you know, interesting, you know  watching where those things have gone. Um,  there's some, you know, other work that we started   doing with striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay.  Um, juveniles whereas a lot of other people have   tracked adults but we're looking at the younger ones. Some invasive species would be interesting   to work with to see how they're moving and  distributing themselves in a system that   you might not have known prior to putting  tags in them and being able to follow them.  

>>Shelby: Yeah, that sounds like it will be super interesting  work that you'll get to do in the future, hopefully.   So we're starting to run down on time here, but Ivy has a question. "What are some   challenges you have had as a woman in this kind  of profession?" Kim, would you like to answer that?   >>Kim: Sure. Um, you know, as a woman when you're kind  of working in a male centric field finding  

field gear... field gear to wear. As a plus sized woman I find it even harder to find things.  You know, I don't fit into a square box  that people deem, you know, people figure okay,   well this is what the person should look like,  so here we're going to build all these clothes   to fit this ideal body but so that... that has  certain... that can certainly be a challenge.   >>Shelby: I didn't even think about that, you know,  just certain field gear or stuff that traditionally   maybe were made for men. It can be kind of  difficult as a woman with different body types.  Sarah, what about yourself? Have you had any  challenges as a woman in this kind of profession? >>Sarah: It's kind of hard to say in comparison,  you know, because I am a woman um and I haven't   had to experience it in a different way but  I don't feel that I've had, um... there's a lot of, particularly for marine mammal work,  there's a lot of females in my field and so   um I just, you know, I throughout my career I've  just had, you know, immersed with other women and   um alongside other women so I can't say I've had um, not many challenges, you know, stand out directly as,  you know, a woman in the field. >>Shelby: Right, and I think  it's so great that more and more we're seeing more   and more women come into the field. I had some  really fantastic role models um for myself when  

I was going through my scholastic career so uh,  things are just getting better and better the more   of us there are, that we can support each other  and help out. We have a few more questions here.   People want to know "What is your favorite thing  that you do for work?" Kim, how about you take this.   >>Kim: Uh it's definitely the field work side of it.  Um, you know, actually being out and collecting the fish  and then tagging them is a lot of fun. You know, it's a little less fun doing some of the  

mundane lab work but the field work is definitely  the best part. >>Shelby: Yeah, that's one of my favorite parts   as well. Um, Isa has a question for you as well, Kim.  They want to know, "Ms. Kim, have you ever   worked with women environmental engineers?"  >>Kim: I personally have not. There's definitely,   I mean I could definitely see that being a thing.  I'm sure that when, you know, different scientists  

are collaborating with engineers about removing dams and things like that, that I would hope that   if there's not that... someday, you know, those  positions, you know, it's a woman that they're   collaborating with and you figure out the best  way to, you know, make that happen but I personally   have not. >>Shelby: Yeah, and we have another  question here. Sarah, do whales migrate in groups?   >>Sarah: Some do um and others uh migrate as single animals.  Um for example gray whales on the West coast  

um as they're migrating South you'll see a lot  of single animals, but as they migrate back North   they'll have calves with them so technically they  would be considered groups so you might have,   they can basically do both. >>Shelby: Interesting, and our  last question here, people want to know "Is your job fun?" >>Kim: Absolutely! >>Sarah: Absolutely. I love the field work,  flying planes, and on boats and seeing species that   spend most of their time under water  is a really amazing opportunity, so yes. >>Shelby: Well thank you so much to Kim  and Sarah for joining us here   on Women on the Move! Do you guys have  any final words for our viewers today? >>Sarah: I'd say it's a privilege to be able to share  our experience with aspiring young students and   pursue your passion and um it's really great to be  able to share this with um with future generations   because you all will be the ones um that are  that will be making a difference in the future. >>Kim: It was great chatting with you  all today and as Sarah said just   follow your passion and do what makes you happy.

>>Shelby: Awesome. Thank you guys so much and  thank you all for joining us today and we hope   you'll join us for our next installment of  Women on the Move this Wednesday from 1 to 2 p.m.   On Wednesday, we will be celebrating what it takes  to track shorebirds with Dr. Autumn-Lynn Harrison   from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.  We encourage and welcome you to post about this  

program on social media. Please tag us at these  handles and use our hashtag #BecauseOfHerStory.   We'd love your feedback on today's program.  You'll see a survey pop up when we close the webinar.   Educators, please take a few  minutes to fill this out.   Be sure to also check out our Smithsonian  Learning Lab collection where we will have   super cool activities like designing your own  tracker to continue the fun and the learning.  

On behalf of the Smithsonian's  American Women's History Initiative,   National Zoological Park and Conservation  Biology Institute, Environmental Research  

2022-05-01 01:36

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