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We welcomed Matt Bille back to the show to discuss Project WHALES and the advancements with OceanLens software to help protect cetaceans (whales and dolphins). As you will hear during our two segment 95 minute discussion, using space technology is essential in tracking and helping to protect whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. This was an exciting discussion, the technology you will hear about was advanced, exciting and becoming even more advanced. Support from NASA, NOAA and other international organizations is there and increasing. Presently he RFID chips go up on large NOAA and big NASA satellites, Matt and his group is working on exploring the use of microsatellites to get the needed data as this would greatly increase and enhance cetacean tracking and protection. Attached to our blog are two photos that Matt discussed during our conversation and the OceanLens descriptive flyer that you should read to help you understand this advanced software, 3D modeling of the ocean and the ocean floor and how this helps in whale protection and tracking. In addition, Matt allowed us to post the .pdf of their paper and presentation from the Small Sat 2018 conference, "Microsats and Moby Dick: Microsatellite Support to Whale Science and Conservation. I urge you to read this paper as it certainly enhances our discussion with more facts, details and benefits regarding Project WHALE and the use of the OceanLens software if microsats can be used for these purposes. Finally, do watch the short video posted on the site. I posted a description of the video on the blog.
During the first segment, we discussed all of these topics but I promise you, reading the paper and the OceanLens flyer will provide you with much more information and important details we did not get to address during the show. We did get many email listener questions plus I had many questions of my own for our guest. One of my questions was about just how important space was to whale conversation. I wanted to know if this work could be done with other technology or if space was key to helping to protect the whales and marine mammals, plus as was mentioned, even terrestrial animal life. Make sure you listen to all of what Matt said which carried over to the second segment but the simple answer was that space was essential to this effort.
For the second segment, we continued talking about how space helped out in whale conversation other than tracking. In responding to questions in this area, Matt talked about threats in the open ocean including pollution, fishing gear (nets and related commercial and industrial fishing equipment) and collisions with ships. We spent lots of time talking about fishing equipment hazards for marine mammals and even more time talking about ship collisions. Not only is this an issue for navy vessels but commercial and private vessels also have this problem. While naval vessels usually have sonar and can often steer clear of whales, most other ships do not have that type of sonar and depend on visual sightings to help avoid them. Matt said it was up to the humans to avoid the whales as there was no technology to change the course of a whale if it was on a course to collide with a ship. Don't miss this discussion about threats in the open ocean to marine mammals. Believe me, it was very informative and interesting.
Before we ended our discussion, Matt was asked if he saw possible commercial entrepreneurial opportunities in using space for whale conservation and protection. Listen carefully, you might be surprised by how our guest answered this question. Matt also talked about taking this subject to the space community because for the most part it has been confined to the conservation and marine mammal groups. By presenting at Small Sat 2018, it was the first time an effort was made to tell the space community about all of what you will hear on this show and find out about by reading the documents uploaded to our blog. I personally hope Matt and his group do take this to more space folks as I believe it will readily be adopted by the space industry, advocates and policy makers once they find out about the incredible role space is playing in whale conservation. Furthermore, if the research opens up the use of small and microsats for this work, it may prove to be an important area for the expansion of space science and technology as well as economics.
Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show. You can reach Matt Bille through me or Booz Allen Hamilton in Denver.