College of the Atlantic Allied Whale creates opportunities for students to research whales and other marine mammals alongside professional marine biologists in the Gulf of Maine.College of the Atlantic Allied Whale creates opportunities for students to research whales and other marine mammals alongside professional marine biologists in the Gulf of Maine. Credit: Tom FernaldAt any given time, researchers at Allied Whale — a marine mammal laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine — are likely to be away from their small offices and instead somewhere in the Southern Ocean. Or perhaps on a small, rocky island 20 miles out in the Gulf of Maine. Or zipping offshore in a RIB to tie a line on a dead whale in preparation for towing it to shore. They may be rescuing a seal pup abandoned on a rocky ledge.

They might also be photographing and cataloging humpback whales and right whales and all sorts of other whales, teaching citizen scientists how to recognize whales by their markings, or flying off to international marine mammal conferences. It’s possible they are facilitating esoteric student research projects, like setting passive-acoustic hydrophones in the ocean to capture whale vocalizations. They might be dressed in biohazard gear and wielding flensing knives to necropsy a decomposed sperm whale hauled up on a beach. Or burying the stripped bones in specially composed compost, where bacteria will take a year to finish cleaning them. Or they may be in the process of digging up the bones and reassembling them for exhibits in venues around the nation.

Here, overlooking the tourist town’s island-dotted harbor, researchers and students document and catalogue all that work, craft hands-on educational programs, and network with marine mammal experts and citizen scientists around the world.

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