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The Oceania Project's
Whale Research Expeditions
in Hervey Bay

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The Oceania Project's Internship Program

Trish with the Team Trish shares an amusing photograph with the research team aboard the first week of the Expedition: Click to enlarge

(Left to Right) Megan Anderson; Jennifer Prerau; Peter Harrison; Trish Franklin; Lesley Giddings; Libby Stirling; Paul Hodda; David Lloyd; Dan Burns and Jacqui Bullard.

Stepping aboard the expedition vessel 'Sounds Unique' as a participant in the Internship Program, you realise you have become part of a humpback whale research team dedicated to furthering our understanding of these incredible creatures.

Work begins the moment you step aboard Sunday morning. Firstly, you will get to meet the other members of the research team. Following the safety and operational briefings, you will participate in planning the week's rosters and assist the crew in getting ready for departure from Urangan Boat Harbour.

Upon leaving the harbour, the most immediate sensation you will encounter is the constant movement of the Expedition vessel. However, like the whales, you will deftly adapt to the rhythms and movements of the ocean.

Within two hours of leaving Harbour at 0800 Sunday morning, we will be within the study area looking out for our first pod of humpbacks.

We can work with up to 14 individual humpbacks each day. You may find yourself rostered on assisting with pod observations, sloughed skin collection, recording GIS spatial data, water quality sampling, environmental readings, or on the 'Chef 'or galley roster. Rosters are rotated so everyone gets to participate in all tasks and activites involved with a successful Expedition.

The primary focus of the Photo ID work is to obtain information to enable us to recognise individual whales. Thus, we carefully look at individual markings and try to associate specific under side flukes with dorsals. All eyes are needed to determine how many individuals there are in a pod.

We also observe and record the behaviour occurring amongst the individuals in the pod. Observing a mother feeding a calf requires patience. In the case of highly active competitive pods it is important to work out which individual is the 'nuclear whale' - or centre of attention, and which individuals are primary or secondary escorts.


Participants joining the Expedition are required to make a declaration that they are physically fit to spend a week aboard a sea-going catamaran. If you have any doubts or concerns about your fitness to participate you should consult your Doctor. Tasks assigned to Interns involve light physical activity and require only a general level of fitness. If you have any medical condition that you think might be an issue with your participation in the Expedition it is your responsibility to declare the condition and seek your doctors advise as to whether or not it might interfere with your fitness to participate with the Research Team aboard the Expedition vessel.. 

Full details of what to expect aboard the Expedition vessel can be downloaded here:      The Oceania Project's Internship Program

Birrichino breaching clear of the water 'Yolanda's' 2001 calf Birrichino is caught by Trish in a full body breach. This type of behaviour is not only exciting to witness but creates opportunities to obtain sloughed skin samples: Click to enlargeBirrichino's mother 'Yolanda'. 'Yolanda's' mnemonic name was inspired by the 'Y' mark on her left lateral body. Her 1996 calf was 'Floppy'. Thus, 'Birrichino' and 'Floppy' are brothers. Skin samples from both calves will allow us to study their paternity.

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