Gray Whales Count


This is a serious, research project, conducted with scientific protocols. It is also an education project. We welcome your participation, even if you have no experience. You will learn quickly; and, in a very short time, you will be a capable observer, providing much needed assistance in the scientific process. Soon, too, you will able to share information and your enthusiasm with passersby who may be curious about what we are doing and why.

Gray Whales Count starts in early February and continues daily through May. Observer shifts are two hours. We encourage you to take a shift a week through the Count to enable you to keep up with the changing migration and environment around our site.

The first shift is at 9 AM  with following shifts at 11, 1 PM and 3. We conclude our survey at 5 PM each day.  Because of the equipment limitations and access restrictions, all shifts must be scheduled in advance through the Project Coordinator, Michael Smith.

Sometimes the weather shuts down the Count. Rain and fog are troublesome, but wind can be the most disruptive. You will be able to call ahead, if you are in doubt about the current conditions and your shift.

For your comfort and safety we require that you wear sunglasses, preferably polarized. (Magnetic clip-ons conflict with our binoculars.)

We strongly advise that you wear a hat and sunscreen. We also suggest layers for warmth. You will be positioned on a bluff with a breeze coming off the ocean (cold water).

We have five pairs of binoculars that have a reticle scale and a compass. We will, of course, show you how to use those, so we can work together to record datapoints and confirm identities.

A note of encouragement to those with experience observing marine mammals and entering data: We vitally need Supervisors. Please discuss the opportunity with Michael Smith, Project Coordinator. You will receive specific training on this research and the operation of the project site by experienced Supervisors. Do consider it. It is fun. If you want to try out the process first as an Observer, where you can get a feel for what is needed, please do that.

We are an informal, congenial group and, importantly, we are a team. We depend on each other. Communicating is the only way to keep our effort going.

We are well into our 2018 Count. Please consider participating at the start of next year, our 15th annual survey of the northbound migration of Gray whales through the nearshore of the Santa Barbara Channel. We will begin in mid-February 2019 and continue through May.

Please take a few moments to explore the site to get a better idea of what we do, when, where, why, and how we do it. You might want to look at DO WHALES COUNT and ABOUT GWC, then return to this page to find out more about how you can participate in this effort by becoming a Counter. 

Each volunteer is required to fill out and submit a Contact Information form for Gray Whales Count in order to participate. The form is available online below.

Contact Form 2018.pdf

DO NOT try to fill out the form in your browser.

> Download the form to your computer and save it with a changed name as a PDF.

>Reopen the file in the latest version of Adobe Reader and fill it out.

>Save it. Send it as an attachment to Michael Smith, Project Coordinator.

Click to send an e-mail to Michael Smith.

After you receive an acknowledging e-mail,
you are a Counter!

Because we are working at the Coal Oil Point Reserve, we are required to agree to and sign waiver forms, which will be available when you come to the survey site.

Our site is special.

The Coal Oil Point Reserve is a jewel of the University of California Natural Reserve System; and, we are fortunate, indeed, to be able to experience the transition from winter to spring as we track the whales on migration.

Several research and education projects operate in the Reserve. Gray Whales Count is just a part of the mix. It is very important that Counters respect the needs of other researchers and volunteers.

Please read Regulations, Directions,
and Map page.

All Counters are agreeing to abide by the Reserve regulations. Any violation jeopardizes the project.

If you are having difficulty with the PDFs on this site, download a free copy of the latest version of ADOBE READER.


What do counters do ?

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