Whales and Dolphins Under the California Sun

Ocean Health

Whales and Dolphins Under the California Sun

How can we do a better job of sharing the ocean with whales and dolphins in one of the U.S.’s most populous areas?

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

This research tracks when and where marine mammals are in the area, which can help keep conflicts with boat traffic down.

There’s evidence that whales expend extra energy trying to avoid boat traffic and forage less when boats are nearby, which could push these animals past their limits.

It can be hard to fathom that a creature as massive as a whale could be at the mercy of us puny humans. But, of course, we all share the coastal regions like Southern California, and conflicts are bound to occur.

Collisions between whales and boats have risen steadily since the 1950s as ships have gotten larger and faster and whale populations have recovered from the whaling industry. Marine mammals are injured or even killed after becoming entangled in fishing gear. And there are less lethal, but very troubling, threats that come when maritime traffic intersects whale and dolphin home ranges or migratory paths. This traffic may cause animals to move their paths further offshore, or to forage less when in the presence of boats. Such impacts could increase the animals’ energetic costs while decreasing their gains from foraging, and could push an animal past its limits, especially in years when prey is limited.

Common Dolphin

Observe dolphins off the coast.

By helping these researchers make observations of how whales and dolphins behave around boats and helping to track where these mammals move and appear, you’ll contribute to an accurate picture of what exactly happens between whales and humans at this crucial place where our species intersect.

About the research area

Dana Point and Catalina Island, California, United States, North America & Arctic

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:

The Scientists


Lei Lani
Associate Professor, University of Redlands

ABOUT Lei Lani Stelle

Dr. Lei Lani Stelle has researched Steller sea lions, the ecological interactions between gray whales and mysids (swarming zooplankton), and river otters. For Earthwatch, she's in Southern California researching whale and dolphin populations.


Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


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