This week a group of educators, students and robotics enthusiasts from our home city of Gloucester, Massachusetts met with Iain Kerr and staff at our new Robotics Lab to talk about how this space can be put to use for the benefit of the community. On first entering the new lab a couple of the attendees asked if they could move in. Visitors were able to check out our collection of drones and simulators, and had a nighttime demonstration flight of a drone.
During the day Ocean Alliance is aggressively pursuing projects on a number of different fronts in the field of marine robotics. Working with Olin College we are trying to develop drones that can collect a variety of data from our oceans with minimal effort from the handlers. But having the space open to local students and educators on evening Hobby Nights will add resources and collaboration opportunities to locals with an interest in robotics.
This work is supported in part by a grant from the Applied Material Foundation and the generosity of Antonio Bertone who provided the recycled shipping container that currently houses our lab at the Paint Factory in Gloucester.
Next Tuesday Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to put litter in its place. Living and working in a coastal community, we are all too aware of the plastics ending up in our waterways. We’ve conducted many shoreline clean-ups at our headquarters on Rocky Neck in Gloucester, MA, and on area beaches, and one of the most common items we come across is plastic water bottles. What if Massachusetts residents had an incentive to collect those bottles and return them? Read More
The restoration of our headquarters, the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory in Gloucester, MA, continues with a new dock and clean utility corridor. Iain Kerr and Dan Albani, along with Paul McManus from EcoTech, Inc., had two petitions before the Gloucester Conservation Commission this week. Read More
When Ocean Alliance started in the whale conservation business in the 1970s, one of our primary goals was to show that you didn’t have to kill a whale to learn about it. What we were doing then was developing benign research tools and techniques. I like to think of OA as being a pathfinder organization. We are a small and agile organization that can respond quickly to emerging challenges and issues. Read More
In case you saw any activity at our headquarters the Paint Factory in Gloucester, MA on Sunday, we had Discovery Channel News on site filming a segment on SnotBot with our Robotics Program partners, Olin College of Engineering. Read More
Acoustic bleaching—there’s an expression you don’t hear every day. Whales operate in a world of sound; it is their primary sense. Blue whales make sounds that can be heard thousands of miles away, or at least they used to be able to. Humanity is not just filling our oceans with trash, we are filling our oceans with sound. From commercial shipping, seismic exploration and military testing, the oceans are no longer the silent world that Jacques Cousteau once talked about. Read More
Operation Toxic Gulf crewmember Jessica Guertin spent some time talking to RV Odyssey captain Bob Wallace while working in the Gulf of Mexico. Here she shares a portrait of our beloved captain: Read More
It’s spring in Argentina, and that means its time for our Southern Right Whale Program to begin at Península Valdés in Patagonia. The Right Whale team will be sharing life at whale camp with you in the coming weeks. First up–our aerial photographer John Atkinson from Ontario, Canada returns once again and shares this: Read More
Ocean conservation leaders met up in New York City this week to collaborate on solutions for the problems facing our oceans. Ocean Alliance President Roger Payne and CEO Iain Kerr were invited by Parley for the Oceans to join scientists, activists and artists, including music producer Pharrell Williams, legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle, NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, and Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson, to talk about our work studying the effects of pollutants on whales. Read More
Our Robotics Program is in the running for a $10K grant called the Drone Social Innovation Award. Our video entry was created by Eliza Muirhead with footage from Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 and features Odyssey crew and Olin College robotics students testing newly-developed benign research techniques. The more views and “Likes” on YouTube the better, so enjoy and feel free to share!
Last Saturday night a sailboat called Sabatico quietly sailed into Gloucester harbor and anchored off Eastern Point. This 44ft ketch is Ocean Alliance’s latest addition to our research programs.
In May of this year, while the RV Odyssey was hauled out of the water in Key West, Florida, we met a gentleman called D.M. Barry. Mr. Barry had just returned from a trip to Mexico aboard his 44 ft Pearson ketch Sabatico. He was curious as to what work this large red sailboat with people swarming all over it was engaged in. He first met Dan Albani on the docks who talked to him about our work and then he got into an extensive conversation with Dan Haefner. Both Dans suggested to Mr. Barry that Ocean Alliance could put his vessel to good use and both were as surprised as I was when he called me up three weeks later and offered to donate his sailboat to Ocean Alliance.
I have enjoyed my conversations with Mr. Barry enormously; he has had a varied and interesting career, he loves the wild world, and seems to grab life and enjoy the ride. An entrepreneur, pilot and boat captain, Mr. Barry now lives in Montana. He has been saddened by the fact that he could not do all that he used to do at sea as a younger man and felt that this was a good time to follow a different route than full-time boat ownership. We welcome him as a new member of the Ocean Alliance family and look forward to him visiting us in New England and seeing the Sabatico put to work as a research vessel.
This type of generous offer is always a bit of a catch 22 for a group like Ocean Alliance. This donation will probably cost us $20,000 in the first year with insurance, maintenance, upgrades, upkeep and crew, but while we do not have that amount of money lying around, the timing of this donation could not have been better and we are very grateful for Mr. Barry’s incredible generosity.
With our move to the Gloucester waterfront we have been looking to engage in more regional cetacean studies. With the loss of the Whale Center of New England, we feel that we can not only help to fill this hole but also bring an extensive whale research skillset to the region and support the work of other researchers in this area more effectively (especially with a platform like Sabatico). In our business, this donation not only demonstrates the value of just asking for help but also reminds us that there are still generous people like Mr. Barry who are willing to step up to the plate and put the environment before personal gain. Thank you again Michael!
We will keep you posted as we develop our research and education agenda, and in the meantime we have requested a name change to WhaleSong.
This week marks the end of Operation Toxic Gulf 2014, the fifth and final year of Ocean Alliance’s program assessing the health of the Gulf of Mexico marine ecosystem in a toxicological context through the bio-indicators that are sperm whales. It’s also the end of our second year working in partnership with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society–what is hopefully the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship from which the true winner will be the oceans, the life which inhabits them, and ultimately our own species. Certainly much of the difficult work has been done, but we cannot forget the hard road ahead of us–the analysis of the data accumulated over the five years of study. When all is done, we should have a comprehensive picture of how the toxicants released into the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil blow-out affect the long-term health of marine mammals and hopefully the marine ecosystem, how we can go about protecting it, and how future toxicological catastrophes might better be contained. The next step is to raise the funds for this expensive yet incredibly important data analysis. In the meantime, we have learnt much. The analysis done so far has shown worrying signs. In particular, we have found that concentrations of chromium and nickel in Gulf of Mexico sperm whales are significantly higher than those that we found in whales in other parts of the world, and the dispersant used in the Deepwater Horizon disaster has been found to cause DNA damage and cell death in sperm whale cells at low doses. Perhaps the most important thing is that each and every person who has crewed on the Odyssey in the Gulf has left with a profound sense of purpose about what we are doing and why this type of ocean conservation program is important–not only for the Gulf of Mexico but for the whole world, for the Gulf truly is a microcosm for wider ocean systems. The majesty, beauty, and fragile nature of the Gulf and the extraordinary animals which inhabit it, combined with the ever present and increasingly heavy footprint of man in the shape of the oil rigs, container ships, run-off from the Mississippi and the innumerable and inescapable plastic and visible trash constantly remind us of our connection to our incredible planet and how its fate is inextricably linked to our own. Over the past five years we have accumulated too many thank-you’s to name. Probably over 100 people have crewed these expeditions, with boundless shore support, donors, marina owners, dock-masters, relatives and well-wishers providing support without which the campaigns would not have been possible. On behalf of the crew, let us just say a quick thank you to a few select individuals: to Captain Bob Wallace, the only ever-present who has led the campaigns from the front line and who has kept both crew and boat working efficiently and safely; to the Wise family, who dedicated three entire summers and many hundreds of hours in the laboratory to this program (and more to go); to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society & volunteers, who made the final two seasons possible; and finally to Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr who has, quite literally, run this show (whilst running Ocean Alliance at the same time…). Thank You! -Andy Rogan, Scientific Director for Operation Toxic Gulf 2014
Our friends from Sea Shepherd Boston were kind enough to join us this week for a shoreline clean-up of Horton Street in Gloucester, MA–home of Ocean Alliance. The rocks along our shoreline create a trap for fishing gear, water bottles, stryrofoam cups and other debris that needs to be collected every few months to prevent it from washing out to sea. It’s another example how organizations can accomplish more when they work together:
Upon the completion of the robotics leg of Operation Toxic Gulf this week, our local crewmember Dan Haefner contacted the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC). It turns out that a couple of Olin College alumni work there and the Olin students working on board the RV Odyssey were invited for a tour of the facility. Later on that day staff members from IHMC came for a tour of the Odyssey. I had the good fortune to meet with a number of staff and I had great conversations with John Carff and Johnny Godowski. Amongst other things, John is into micro air vehicles and Johnny works on high-speed legged robotic systems. Read More
I am writing this blog from the RV Odyssey 120 nautical miles out in the Gulf of Mexico on the final leg of Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Most of the day we are tracking whales acoustically (oh for a drone to help us find whales), but for part of every day on this leg we are conducting ship trials (at sea launch and recovery exercises) on a variety of drones. Read More
It’s been an extremely productive summer in the Gulf of Mexico with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society joining us on the RV Odyssey to study the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr describes what we’ve seen and learned in the Gulf this summer through multiple research techniques and tools, with new footage of the Operation Toxic Gulf crew at work:
There were originally six buildings on the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory site, the new home of Ocean Alliance in Gloucester, MA. Buildings D and F were condemned by the city and were taken down (when we have raised the money they will be put back up with the original facade). Building E is finished and now houses our offices. The restoration of the chimney is complete so we are now focusing our efforts on what we call Buildings A and B (the two remaining brick buildings). Read More
The chimney of our headquarters, the historic Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory, has stood as as a beacon signaling home for Gloucester’s fishermen for over 130 years. In the fall of 2013 it was determined that the chimney structure was cracked and unsound, so the fundraising drive began to restore this icon of Gloucester’s waterfront. Thanks to the Citizens of Gloucester Community Preservation Act we were able to secure a grant to restore the chimney for generations to come. Masons from Numerosi Masonry of Gloucester have been hard at work high above the waterfront and recently Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr climbed up to take a look at the finished work and the view:
Watch a short history of the Paint Factory narrated by Roger Payne and Lisa Harrow here and learn how bottom paint for boats was invented.
Beyond the hard work there are many special moments at sea: great sunsets, spectacular light shows from thunder storms, and the joy of seeing a team work so well together for a common cause. A couple of days ago I had one of these lifetime moments. Read More
Ocean Alliance has had a busy spring. The research vessel Odyssey is having a successful campaign in the Gulf of Mexico with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and reconstruction has started on brick buildings A, B and the chimney of our headquarters–the Paint Factory. Our plan remains to put our robotics lab upstairs in building A, but our robotics program is outpacing the readiness of the building. Antonio Bertone to the rescue. Read More
I had been up the mast for around an hour and a half before something in the periphery of my vision caught my eye. I turned quickly, but whatever I saw had quickly disappeared beneath the waves. I continued looking in the general direction, quite far off of our port bow, and sure enough, a couple minutes later a large dark shape cut through the water heading straight at us! I couldn’t identify the species immediately. But what I did know was that I had never seen it before, and that it was special. Read More
We are halfway to our goal of raising enough funds to put in a floating dock at our headquarters, the Paint Factory in Gloucester. If we’re going to reach our goal of celebrating staff-member Kim’s birthday on the dock this month we need to step up the pace. Read More
What a remarkable weekend in Vermont at the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society International Summit. Sea Shepherd staff, volunteers, consultants and friends from around the world gathered to review past, current and future projects.
Dr. Roger Payne and I were invited to attend the conference to speak about the work we’re doing with Sea Shepherd on Operation Toxic Gulf. We had the privilege to meet and speak with a huge variety of people, from Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson to the newest volunteers. We were really impressed by the dedication and energy we encountered across the board. It was exciting to see how interested everyone was in the science that we are doing and the potential for future collaborations.
Highlights for me were a compilation video that documented much of Paul’s life, and meeting program managers such as Gary Stokes from Hong Kong who has helped to expose the shark finning trade, Jeff Hansen of Sea Shepherd Australia, and Captain Peter Hammarstedt of the Bob Barker (as seen in “Whale Wars”). It was nice to see Susan Hartland of Sea Shepherd USA and Alex Cornelissen of Sea Shepherd Global. Our good friend Cyrill Gutsch of Parley for the Oceans and Tim Coombs from Bionic Yarn also gave a powerful presentation about the “cradle to cradle” philosophy.
I like it when we can identify a problem, look for solutions, and help educate the public to bring about change and I found this philosophy very prevalent at the conference.
(Pictured at top: Alex Cornelissen, Peter Hammarstedt, Roger Payne, Susan Hartland, Paul Watson, Iain Kerr, Jeff Hansen; Photo by Eliza Muirhead. Group photo from drone by Iain Kerr)
Operation Toxic Gulf 2014, our joint campaign with Sea Shepherd USA, is in full swing in the Gulf of Mexico so we wanted to introduce you to the program, the crew and the Odyssey. This new video features footage from the first leg of the campaign, from the launch in Key West to our first sperm whale encounter of the campaign. Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr explains our decision to return to the Gulf for a fifth summer to study the impacts of Deepwater Horizon disaster:
We are thrilled to report that Ocean Alliance has been awarded a Mass Cultural Facilities Fund Grant of $70,000 towards the renovation of our headquarters, the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory in Gloucester, MA. We will be using the funds as part of our restoration efforts on the remaining two brick buildings A and B, and the chimney. These buildings will host our robotics laboratory and education spaces. Take the virtual immersion tour of the Paint Factory to see inside and out these historic spaces.
“It is very exciting to receive this award from the MA Cultural Council,” said Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr. “We sometimes feel that the important role that the development of anti-fouling paint played in Gloucester history has been forgotten.”The total project cost is $318,000 for buildings A and B. With this grant and another $85,000 already committed we have now raised almost half of that amount.
“Investments in our creative economy stimulate growth and opportunity in every corner of the Commonwealth,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “Through this new round of funding, we are continuing to create a more vibrant place for our students to learn, our families to live and our businesses to grow.”
Read the full press release and grant recipients here.
We’re extremely thankful to the Massachusetts Cultural Council and MassDevelopment for supporting our work
A special announcement from Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr:
The Research Vessel Odyssey heads back into the Gulf of Mexico for a fifth season today.
I’ve spent the last two weeks with a remarkable international crew aboard the Odyssey prepping for our fifth summer of data and sample collection in the Gulf of Mexico—our joint campaign with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society—Operation Toxic Gulf . The crew represent six countries: Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Spain and the USA. Read More
We track whales using a piece of equipment called an acoustic array. This is a line of underwater microphones called hydrophones that we drag behind the RV Odyssey to give us a bearing and approximate range to animals night and day, good and bad weather. The best-case scenario for us is to be with a group of whales when the sun rises so that we can work with them all day. Read More
When we first started talking with Olin College of Engineering in 2010 about a collaboration, they were very interested in Ocean Alliance providing their students with real world (or applied) challenges. A rapidly growing part of our oceanographic research program is the field of robotics, particularly as it applies to developing benign research techniques (those that cause no harm). SailBot, SnotShot and SnotBot are three good examples. As Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr has spoken at different schools and events he has noticed a lot of interest in this field of robotics, so from our work with Olin and this interest came the idea to build the Applied Robotics Research Laboratory and Club at the Paint Factory, our headquarters in Gloucester, MA. Read More
This June we will be moving ahead with SnotBot and SnotShot trials in Gloucester Harbor with our partners at Olin College of Engineering. SnotShot is a device we’ve built to simulate whale blows, SnotBot is a machine that will collect these exhalations looking for viruses, bacteria, DNA and hormones.
In preparation for the trial, Iain Kerr and John Graham recently made a trip to Olin to work with the students of Dr. Andrew Bennett. We sat down as a team to talk about how we could best fine tune the instruments to represent all that we might encounter when we work with wild animals. For example, the SnotShot will sit in a small kayak with a hydrophone in the water to record any propeller noise, a small camera with a microphone to record airborne noise and video the drone approach, a vertical anemometer to check ambient maximum wind speed, and a horizontal anemometer to check maximum vertical wind speed from the drone. Before taking the drones out students at Olin will be flying over a pressure plate to get accurate measurements of downwash created by the drone.
Andrew Bennett and John Graham in front of 3-D printers at work
The purpose here is not just to do trial flights and collect simulated whale blow data, but also to collect all the info we can about what a whale might hear, see and feel when approached by a drone.
When we move on to animal encounters we will bring the SnotShot with us, as in this type of experiment you always need control data. We need to be able to compare what’s in the water with what’s in the whale blow since a large part of the whale blow is seawater.
Thanks to the students of Olin for all of your hard work—we look forward to seeing you in Gloucester!
Ahead of a week of tech-related conferences and expos Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has declared May 2-9 “Internet of Things Week” in the Bay State, making Massachusetts the first state to do so. An exciting part of this coming week is the “Internet of Things” (IoT) Olympiad, a 48-hour hackathon in which IT developers collaborate and compete for a common goal.
One of this year’s themes is “Sustain Life: Sustainable Maritime Economies,” put forward by our friend Tom Balf from Maritime Gloucester. Recently Tom approached Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr and asked if he had any potential projects for the IoT Olympiad, and did we have any incentive packages that could be offered to motivate participants. Iain introduced an idea we’ve been thinking about for a while called Whale Snap. The idea is that you when you are on the water and spot a whale you take a photo with the Whale Snap app. The app would identify the species of whale and give you basic information on that animal almost immediately. Then it would link to a database and contact you back with more info about the whale, potentially its name and when it was last seen, and threats to the species. In this way we can:
Minke whale – photo by Tim Watters
Educate people about regional whale populations
Empower citizen scientists to collecting data
Fund our research, education and conservation efforts
Iain believes the potential for this program is huge. It could start as a regional program with humpback whales and then go global with Whale Snap applications that are specific to different whale populations around the world. Considering that Ocean Alliance has data on whale populations from over 20 counties we are well suited to take on this project.
Memorabilia signed by Sir Patrick Stewart and Dr. Roger Payne
7 Seas Whale Watch with Sir Patrick Stewart (date to be determined)
Work space at our headquarters in the historic Paint Factory on Gloucester Harbor
To join the IoT Olympiad register here. Good luck!
At Ocean Alliance we are always looking for new ways to find and track marine mammals, by day and night. Currently, for at least twelve hours a day we’re shut down, but a new technology could open up a whole new realm of studying whales at night. Read More
When you develop any technology to work with wildlife, particularly endangered species such as marine mammals, you want to get all of your prototypes, testing, and dry runs completed before you go out into the field. As we continue to develop our drone, SnotBot, that will be used to collect Exhaled Breath Condensate (EBC or whale blows) looking for viruses, bacteria, DNA, and hormones, we needed a machine that could simulate a whale blow so we could test all aspects of SnotBot including EBC collection protocols, whale approach and effect protocols, and our systems for collecting and bringing back EBC. Read More
We continue to review hundreds of hours of bow cam footage from Operation Toxic Gulf, our 2013 joint campaign with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the Gulf of Mexico following up on the Deepwater Horizon disaster. So far we’ve shared melon-headed whales and rough-toothed dolphins, sperm whales, and now Atlantic spotted dolphins enjoying a calm clear day. Iain Kerr narrates:
Recently we told you about about the discovery in England of Roger Payne’s first film about whales, featuring Sylvia Earle and released in 1978, “World of Survival: Humpbacks—The Gentle Giants.” Tomorrow Iain Kerr is meeting with Judi and Terry Vose, longtime friends and supporters of Ocean Alliance. Iain will be handing over the film and they will be driving it to Play it Again Film and Video Transfer in Newton, MA where it will be transferred to dvd at a discount, with the remaining costs covered by the Voses. Read More
It’s not often that those who work for the protection of whales have something to celebrate, but today we can. In a 12-4 decision by the International Court of Justice in the Hague Japan has been ordered to temporarily cease issuing whaling permits for failing to prove the scientific purposes of its whaling. Read More
This Friday, March 28th, come and see us at The Bridge Business Expo at Magnolia Library in Gloucester, MA from 4-8 pm. Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr will be on hand from 6-8 to tell you what’s in store this year and answer all of your whale and ocean pollution questions from his 20+ years of experience. Rebecca Siswick-Graham will have whale artifacts, t-shirts for sale, stickers and a free raffle of whale-y items. We’ll be sharing a table with our partners from 7 Seas Whale Watch so you can learn more about the humpback whale population they know so well. Come see the best of what Gloucester has to offer—local non-profits like Cape Ann Art Haven, North Shore Folklore Theatre, and local artisans and businesses from stone carvers to health and wellness providers. There will be wine and refreshments, and lots of fun giveaways and offers so come on down!
Update: SnotBot and SailBot will be there for you to check out.
The Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory is one of the most well-known sights on the north shore of Massachusetts. The historic birthplace of marine bottom paint, it is a favorite subject of painters and photographers, but if you didn’t work there, you probably never went inside—it wasn’t a tourist attraction, it was a factory.
After the property was purchased for Ocean Alliance with a grant from the Annenberg Foundation, Iain Kerr and our friend, photographer Jonah Gouin, wanted to change that, so Jonah used virtual immersion technology to give you a look inside and outside these iconic buildings. Choose one of nine starting points on the “Plan” and move around the room up, down and around, starting here:
This virtual tour is a great historic reference image compilation that allows us to zoom in and zoom out and capture important aspects of the site that might be lost in regular still photos or a set of measurements. One of the first things we did when we bought the site was to have every aspect of every building laser measured–when you add hundreds of still photos and this virtual tour to these laser measurements we feel that we have the site very well-documented.
In the case of the buildings that have been taken down, they are priceless reference images for future rebuilding. You’ll see under one building the remains of the art show that was put up underneath the building. The tour of the smallest brick building is the “Before” because it is the first to be finished and now houses our offices. Work will resume this spring for Phase 2.
A word from Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr about one of his favorite subjects–sperm whales, and their sounds:
We will often acoustically track sperm whales through the night in fair weather or foul in the hope that we’ll be with the whales when the sun rises and can spend the whole day working with them. When they do go quiet, it’s often in the one or two hours before dawn, and if we can’t hear them we can’t track them. Nothing is more frustrating than tracking them all night and then losing them in the hour before the sun rises. You don’t want to be the one on that watch.
This recording was made by Odyssey crew member Rik Walker on a good day in the Gulf of Mexico during Operation Toxic Gulf 2013:
All whales make sounds. The toothed whales tend to make sounds for echolocation purposes and it is now thought that many of the baleen whales do as well. Humpback whales are best known for their long complex often haunting sounds. The largest toothed predator on this planet is the sperm whale and this is a species Ocean Alliance has studied all over the world. Their position at the top of the oceans’ food web makes them a great bio-indicator for the health of the oceans. Sperm whales are relatively easy to track using a line of towed underwtater microphones (hydrophones). The arrival time of sounds at the different hydrophones can give us a bearing and often a range to the animal. In this particular recording there is one primary whale and at least two or three others in the background. Our belief is that these sounds are likely the animal searching and zeroing in on prey. As I listen to these sounds I can’t but wonder what is going on in the abyss.
In an afternoon practice session Iain Kerr and John Graham worked on the technology and flight practice of the drones we affectionately call SnotBot. We are working with NOAA on permitting, as this is a new field of marine mammal research, and are still raising funds for this project but we’re excited by the possibilities. Read More
Photo by Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images for G-Star
Ocean pollution met fashion this weekend at the launch of the Vortex Project – a collaboration between Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Bionic Yarn and Cookies for All to turn ocean debris into recyclable fashion. The New York Fashion Week event was held at the American Museum of Natural History under the blue whale with press, fashion industry professionals and celebrities gathered to learn about the first project of the collaboration — Raw for the Oceans, a line of blue jeans with partners G-Star.
Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr was invited to join the lineup of speakers to talk about our work in the collection of data concerning the invisible pollutants that collect in the bodies of marine mammals and ultimately humans. He described the oceans as the blue heart and blood of this planet – the life support system, “And as any NASA astronaut knows, when life support goes down, all is lost.”
Photographer David LaChapelle introduced Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson, who talked about the current state of the oceans and the efforts of the many Sea Shepherd teams around the world battling whaling, poaching and now pollution. Other speakers included Bionic Yarn’s co-founding partners Tim Coombs and Tyson Toussant, G-star CMO Thecla Schaefer and Sea Shepherd consulting scientist, R&D Developer of The Vortex Project, John Davis, and Daniella Russo of the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
The celebrity draw of the evening was Grammy-winning artist Pharrell Williams, an investor and ambassador for Bionic Yarns, who wore a shirt made with the product. He talked of the backlash he receives as a successful recording artist, perceived as wealthy and wasteful, when in reality he is passionate about environmental activism and the use of green technologies to solve problems of pollution. A self-proclaimed Trekkie and lover of the work of Carl Sagan, Pharrell impressed the audience with his humility and curiosity in science as a solution. He shared this video he narrated about G-Star’s Raw for the Oceans line, set to his Oscar-nominated hit “Happy”:
At the end of the evening Iain Kerr passed along a gift he had brought for Pharrell – “Songs of the Humpback Whale” by Ocean Alliance President and founder Roger Payne. He was told that Pharrell had been given many a cd’s of songs in his career, but this was definitely the first from whales.
(Pictured top left: Iain Kerr, Tyson Toussant, Thecla Schaefer and Pharrell Williams. Above right: Captain Paul Watson)
Here is a look at the science we do on board the RV Odyssey in the Gulf of Mexico. This film was made in 2010 with the team from the Wise Laboratory at the University of Southern Maine just after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Alas the weather is not always this nice nor are the whales this abundant but you get to see how we approach sperm whales and collect a small biopsy of skin and blubber for toxicological analysis and the development of cell lines. This is work is conducted under National Marine Fisheries permit number 13545. Read More
Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr and team members Dan Albani and John Graham made another visit to Dr. Drew Bennett at Olin College of Engineering on Monday. We are pushing hard to make our headquarters, the Paint Factory in Gloucester, MA, into a fully functioning oceanographic research center this year and to do that we need a laboratory and docks. The laboratory will be multi-use, but the lead initiative is a robotics lab. This will be a space that is not only used by Ocean Alliance and Olin College for our marine projects, but a space that we hope will be used by school groups and others who are interested in applied engineering solutions. [Pictured – Iain Kerr and Drew Bennett. The yellow copter is a dedicated film platform that we plan to use to document animal interactions with other drones]
For the OA team, going to Olin is a bit like going to a giant toy factory. The equipment they have is remarkable — not only the finished products such as multicopters and airplanes but also the technology that they use such as 3D printers and fine-scale milling machines. We walk through their spaces and they advise us on what worked well for them and what did not. We had a long planning session on the next stages for our SnotBot Program (a small drone that will be used to collect physical samples of whale blows). It should be an exciting year for this partnership.
[Below] Iain Kerr and Olin students Mike and Silas in front of a small milling machine. A drone can be seen on the computer screen and parts can be made on the milling machine. The two black and silver machines in the background are 3-D printers
Dr. Bennett and his students showing Iain a hexacopter (a five engine drone)
This post comes from Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr in the snowy Gulf of Mexico:
It was a very full few days here at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Conference. Over 800 dedicated people. If there is any good news coming out of the BP disaster it is the increased interest in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Part of what drives me is to try to get people to appreciate that we live on planet Ocean not planet Earth. The largest mediating force on this planet is our oceans, not our land masses. Alas the oceans are downhill from everything and as a consequence are becoming humanity’s sewer. Read More
Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr and Dr. John Wise from the Wise Laboratory are currently in Mobile, Alabama at the Gulf Oil Spill and Ecosystem Conference, presenting their findings on the effects of dispersants on sperm whales in the Gulf.
In addition to presentations there are also daily discussion groups for members. Sunday’s discussion was as follows:
Setting the Record Straight: Debunking Myths and Misconceptions about Oil in the Gulf and Promoting Ocean Literacy
How does the 2010 Gulf oil spill, and its subsequent impacts, compare to other spills?
How and where did the oil move?
What happened to the oil?
How does the amount of oil leaked from Deepwater Horizon compare to natural and other releases of oil in the Gulf?
What is the impact of oil spills on organisms that live in the water, including those that we eat?
How do they clean an oil spill and can it ever be totally cleaned up?
What’s going to happen next time there is an oil spill?
The conference continues until Thursday and Iain will bring back as much information as he can to share.
Today Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr is traveling to the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Conference in Mobile, Alabama with Dr. John Wise and team from the Wise Laboratory at the University of Southern Maine. They will be presenting findings from our work in the Gulf beginning in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, specifically on the effects of chemical dispersants on the sperm whales of the Gulf. Read More
It’s hard to express how deeply disturbing it is to see the act of barbarism that is going on in Taji, Japan right now. I consider quite a few Japanese people as close friends and I know that they abhor this hunt, so I don’t see this as a cultural act (the hunt started in 1969) but the act of a small group of individuals who have found a way to make a lot of money very quickly while hiding under a banner of culture. Even if it was cultural this does not excuse all sins — cannibalism and slavery were once considered cultural, but as we have developed as a society we have realized these acts are unacceptable. Read More
Last summer was our fourth expedition in the Gulf of Mexico following up on the BP Oil Spill and we hope to return again this year. This month Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr and Dr. John Wise of the University of Southern Maine will travel to Mobile, Alabama to present findings at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Conference, but there’s more data to gather.
As of this year Roger Payne, Iain Kerr and our headquarters, the Paint Factory, can be seen on the Annenberg Foundation 25 Year Leadership Wall of Fame at their headquarters in Los Angeles, CA. Read More
Eva Hidalgo, Bosun’s Mate on the Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin, has dedicated her life to the conservation of whales and their environment. For this season’s campaign in the Southern Ocean, Operation Relentless, not only is the Sea Shepherd fleet trying to thwart Japanese whalers, but they’re collecting invaluable data from an environment that is not easy to work in or even access. Read More
Ocean Alliance collects data that we hope will be used to affect change. Since the mid-eighties the Japanese and other groups have claimed they are killing whales to collect scientific data. To counter this Roger Payne proved through the development of benign research techniques that you don’t have to kill a whale to understand it biologically. Over the last four years we’ve been working in the Gulf of Mexico looking at the effects on marine mammals of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. In this case we are worried that the cure (the massive use of dispersants) was potentially worse than the illness. Read More