The Global Classroom has teamed up with GEA (Grupo Ecologista Antares) for marine life research and conservation efforts in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Founded and run by Fernando Arcas, GEA opens both doors and minds to the concept of conservation in the seas around Loreto Bay, focusing on blue whale monitoring, marine conservation, environmental education and community outreach.
Volunteer positions and internships are available at GEA involving a wide variety of tasks on land and at sea. The type of work that is possible is partly dependent on the time of year. The Global Classroom’s research projects run from mid-December to the end of March. The most exciting time to be in Loreto is February and March as this is the height of whale season, and the best time to see blue whales. Baja is the only place on the planet where you can get in a small boat and in a matter of minutes be up close and personal with the largest animal to ever live on the planet. Weather permitting, we will be out on the water every day in search of these gentle giants, as well as other species that visit the Sea of Cortez each winter to feed on plankton. You have not really lived until a 200 ton blue whale gently glides up alongside your small boat on a dead calm day! It is both breathtaking and awe-inspiring.
Our student researchers may be involved in photographing and filming orcas, blue, finback, humpback, brydes, and sperm whales to positively identify individuals using pigmentation, fluke tears, and scars. Other tasks include collecting sound recordings using hydrophones, helping update museum catalogs, collecting and photographing plankton samples, assembling skeletons and other display pieces for GEA’s small museum, and on occasion, assisting with animal rehabilitation. On the water, every day is a new day, with many surprises in store. It is not uncommon to find yourself surrounded by hundreds of leaping dolphins, witnessing a humpback whale breaching several times off your bow, and curious sea lions coming in for a closer look while snorkeling or diving. Other ongoing projects at GEA include shark studies, turtle protection, and community outreach and education in local schools.
The Sea of Cortez is one of the best places in the world for conducting research on the elusive blue whale. Blue whales are rorquals, in the same family as humpback, finback, minke, and Bryde’s whales. They have baleen rather than teeth, which they use to filter krill through thousands of gallons of sea water. Blue whales are the largest and heaviest animal to have ever lived on the planet. For over a century, they were hunted almost to extinction until finally protected by The International Whaling Commission in 1966. Today, their numbers in the North Pacific hovers around 2,200, which is the largest population of these gentle giants in the world. Though they are still an endangered species, they seem to have recovered well since the times of whaling – however, there is still so much to be discovered about blue whales. We believe our research and community outreach efforts are crucial for the preservation of this species. Keeping a photo catalog of the individuals we see year after year in Loreto Bay allows us some insight into their patterns and behavior, and our transects of varying sea ecosystems also give us a good idea of the health of the environment as a whole.
Please contact us if you’re interested in getting involved!