In this issue’s lesson, students exercise their observation skills to do some of the actual work of marine biologists who study the endangered North Atlantic right whale. They identify an individual whale by examining photographs taken at sea. They then examine a record of sighting of the whale in order to track its movements.
The whale in question is Phoenix, a 45-foot female that is represented as a life-sized model in the new Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The Smithsonian worked with right whale researchers from the New England Aquarium to reproduce details of Phoenix’s individuality, the same details that students look for in the lesson.
The New England Aquarium maintains a database called the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog, which contains nearly half a million photographs and vital information on some of the remaining members of the species. The online version of the catalog can serve to deepen the lesson.