Citizen Science Participation

Guests who participate in our Discover Alaska’s Whales tour play a significant role in gathering scientific data for various educational/research organizations, while at the same time enjoying whale watching as part of an exclusive group. This page outlines our science partners and the engaging tour activities that support their research. 

Photo by Scott Ranger

Activity: Humpback Whale Observations 

Scientist: Suzie Teerlink, Ph.D. Student, Marine Biology, UAF, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences 


The purpose of the activity: To obtain humpback whale photo ID’s along with corresponding data, based on your observations. This information is useful in estimating whale abundance, individual preferences in feeding locations and life history information such as calving intervals. 

These observations: 

  1. Support the collection of important baseline data for monitoring humpback whales. 
  2. Provide data that can be used to address more directed research questions. 
  3. Engage the public in the scientific process.



Activity: Phytoplankton Sampling

Scientist: Steve Morton, Ph.D., Program Lead, NOAA, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Sciences 


The purpose of the activity: To link volunteers with science to build a more informed public while expanding the reach and awareness of Harmful Algae Blooms through volunteer phytoplankton monitoring efforts. 

These samples: 

  1. Aid in the understanding of the classification and distribution of phytoplankton. 
  2. Monitor for Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) and other Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB). 
  3. Help identify new species. 


Photo by Adriane Hornerbrink


Activity: Invasive Species Monitoring 

Contact: Gary Freitag, M.S. Oceanography, Program Agent, Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program 


The purpose of today’s activity: To monitor Southeast waters for the presence of the invasive European green crab and capture snapshots to record the number and types of animals released from the trap. 

These monitoring efforts: 

  1. Test Auke Bay waters for either the presence or absence of the invasive European green crab; they have been recently been found within 100 miles of the Alaskan boarder as zooplankton! 
  2. Use photography to provide baseline data on the ecology of Auke Bay. 
  3. Provide an opportunity to learn about some of the area’s ‘less popular’ marine animals. 

All of the above activities are considered “citizen science”, which is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur scientists or lay persons. The process of science (or citizen science) can be tedious at best; however, it is many small observations over time that can lead to significant truths. By participating in this tour, and its citizen science projects, you are contributing to a better understanding of the nature of Southeast Alaska.

Photo by Adriane Hornerbrink


Activity: Piniped Entanglement in Marine Debris

Scientist: Kim Raum-Suryan, Pinniped Entanglement Group Coordinator, Co-Management, ESA Section 7


The purpose of the activity: To educate on the frequency of pinniped entanglement, and report any injured, entangled or dead marine mammals in the water or on the beach.

These observations: 

  1. Assist in the observation and reporting of injured and/or entangled marine animals.
  2. Help in reducing the number of entangled animals
  3. Provide education to guests and community members about marine debris and pinniped entanglement in Alaska