Tag Archives: Ocean Alliance

Only 3 days left to join Patrick Stewart (whose new show premieres tonight) in supporting Ocean Alliance’s Snotbot!

You’ve heard about SNOTBOT, right?  OK, maybe you’re just visiting, so you haven’t heard about this yet.  Let me explain: few other Kickstarter pledges could be better for the future of Gloucester (and anyone who lives or visits here) than this one — really, no kidding.  You’ll be helping Ocean Alliance develop revolutionary drone technology for whale research — and there’s no telling what they might discover.  But what ever it is, you’ll be a part of it along with iconic actor Patrick Stewart (Jean Luc Picard on “Star Trek”, with a new show called “Blunt Talk” premiering TONIGHT on Starz)!

This is good for Ocean Alliance (which translates good for Gloucester because we want them to thrive here), good for whales, good for our planet, and good for all of us who will benefit from whatever they discover using this new gizmo!  So pledge now right here.

Discovery Channel at Ocean Alliance

Ian Kerr Discovery Channel interview ©kim Smith 2014 copyIain Kerr Interview with Discovery

Sunday morning Discovery Channel News was at Ocean Alliance filming a story about SnotBot, the organization’s new drone. The drone was created by a group of Olin College of Engineering students, under the direction of Professor Drew Bennet, in the College’s robotics lab.

Drew Bennet Olin College studentys Snot Bot ©Kim Smith 2014. JPG

“SnotBot will be used to collect DNA, bacteria, viruses and stress hormones from whale blows. The team also tested SnotShot, a machine that makes a simulated whale blow (with the capacity to simulate different blow types) on demand—a testing tool that will actually help the scientists in the field collect a control sample.

Olin College students Snot Bot ©kim Smith 2014

The SnotBot drone works something like this: “as SnotBot flies out to a whale that is approximately 300m from the research vessel, it hovers over a whale and the whale repeatedly blows onto a collection device. After the sample is collected and brought back to the RV Odyssey, the data is used to help interpret an animal’s state of heath through the analysis of bacteria, viruses, DNA, and stress hormones recovered from the whale’s blow.”

Read More from the Olin College of Engineering Website Here

Snot Bot Ocean Alliance Archives Here

Captain Dominic ©Kim Smith 2014Gorgeous View from the Paint Factory of the Captain Dominic Fishing Boat

See More Photos Here

Read more

Congratulations To Ocean Alliance For Being Featured In Engadget

Researchers seek permission to collect whale snot with drones (video)

Ocean Alliance and Jane Goodall

ocean alliance and jane goodall
Ocean Alliance President and founder Roger Payne is teaming up with none other than Jane Goodall for a very special meeting to raise awareness about the state of the environment. Roger will be hosting Jane at our Whale Camp in Argentina, and you can watch their meeting live online at www.whale.org/livestream on Sunday October 27th at 3 pm Gloucester time. Join us in witnessing this historic meeting!

Easy Way to Follow Ocean Alliance

To our friends near and far,
There’s a new easy way to follow Ocean Alliance – by subscribing to our e-newsletter. Just go to http://www.whale.org and enter your email address.  
You’ll will receive periodic updates about: 
  • our work in the Gulf of Mexico following up on the BP Oil Spill with our partners from “Whale Wars” –  Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
  • our robotics program with Olin College 
  • our work in Argentina studying the southern right whale for the 43rd year
  • the ongoing renovations at our new headquarters – the Paint Factory.
If you’d like daily updates and stories from the field you can follow our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/oceanalliance or on Twitter https://twitter.com/Ocean_Alliance.
Thanks for your support!
Amy Kerr

Blackfish Benefit for Ocean Alliance

“Blackfish” Screening Benefit for Ocean Alliance
On Sunday September 29th at 6:30 Cape Ann Community Cinema will be hosting a one-night-only screening of the film “Blackfish” to benefit Ocean Alliance. We’ve been hearing the buzz about this film for months and are very excited to have it in Gloucester. More a psychological thriller than a documentary, it tells the story of the killer whale Tilikum whose actions in captivity resulted in the deaths of several people and it raises the question of whether these ocean-roaming hunters should be held in tanks for our entertainment. Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr will be speaking briefly before the film and answering questions afterwards. Tickets can be purchased here – http://capeanncinema.wordpress.com/advance-tickets/
See you there!

THEN and NOW–Paint Factory (A New Beginning)

A lot of people don’t realize there is an open courtyard space that runs between the brick and wooden buildings at the Paint Manufactory. (see post card image)

As part of the restoration process, one of the courtyard spaces is currently being cleaned up by Kerr and his crew.

A pretty spectacular space.


The Latest from Operation Toxic Gulf – Ocean Alliance’s Collaboration with Sea Shepherd of Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars”

ocean alliance
Ocean Alliance is coming to the end of its summer expedition in the Gulf of Mexico looking at the effects of the 2010 BP Oil Disaster on Gulf wildlife, particularly sperm whales. Iain Kerr, CEO of Ocean Alliance, is concerned, because of the Gulf oil spill and all that the Mississippi dumps into the Gulf of Mexico after traveling though the heartland of America, that the Gulf sperm whales could be the most polluted in the world.  The principle goal behind this campaign is to see if the massive use of dispersants in the Gulf was the right course of action for the wildlife in the Gulf.  While the dispersants removed the oil out of sight (and out of mind) there is compelling evidence to suggest that the dispersants moved the oil throughout the food chain and made the oil and dispersant mixture more bioavailable (easier to absorb or ingest by animals).  
A rarely answered question is what causes whales stress – typically the bigger the animal the less that stresses it. To try and answer that question Ocean Alliance did preliminary testing of its “Snot Bot” (developed by Olin College), a flying robot that will collect stress hormones, viruses, bacteria and DNA from whale blows.

Ocean Alliance Update

ocean alliance2 copy
Here’s an update from Operation Toxic Gulf, the partnership between Ocean Alliance and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the Gulf of Mexico:
The Odyssey continues to work offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and has so far obtained 20 biopsy samples from sperm whales. The response from the Gulf community has been overwhelming with donations of food and supplies, lines to tour the Odyssey and even residents coming aboard to cook meals for the crew. Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr is back in Gloucester overseeing the expedition from the Paint Factory while OA President Roger Payne leads the expedition on board. Residents of Rocky Neck will recognize crewmember Andy Rogan who is on board for the entire expedition, coordinating the science and writing blog posts on our Facebook page. Here is an excerpt from his most recent post:
“The very collaboration that we on the Odyssey are a part of brings great hope. As we continue to journey into this new century the whales will face more threats than ever before and no single individual, NGO or even methodology can address all these issues. If we can find ways to work together, to engage the general public and provide the scientific evidence needed for policy change at the governmental level then we have a good chance of protecting these magnificent creatures.”
In photos sent from the Odyssey we see Andy and Hillary Watson (niece of Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson) with a Pensacola resident demonstrating how easy it is to find tar balls on the beach. Another photo shows a pod of emaciated dolphins the crew encountered in the Gulf.

Ocean Alliance on Operation Toxic Gulf

ocean alliance
Hey E.J.,
 I wondered if I could pass along the latest from Ocean Alliance’s current campaign, “Operation Toxic Gulf” for Good Morning Gloucester readers. The R/V Odyssey is currently in the Gulf of Mexico following up on the BP Oil Spill with a combined crew from Ocean Alliance and Sea Shepherd Society (Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars”) with Iain on board. He wrote the attached blog post explaining why they’re there, and I included some photos from the campaign so far. They’re taking biopsies from sperm whales since they’re at the top of the food chain. It would be great to let people know what’s happening out of the Paint Factory. 
Thank you!!
Amy Kerr

Posting from very rough seas today in the Gulf of Mexico, we bring you the third crew blog by Ocean Alliance campaign leader Iain Kerr: on-board The R/V Odyssey for Operation Toxic Gulf.

 I spend a lot of time captaining a desk nowadays so it is good to be back at sea with old and new friends and one of my favorite species sperm whales.

 I do feel very frustrated by the lack of interest in whales in the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 oil disaster.  I have pounded the streets contacting pretty much every funding body I know to keep the RV Odyssey at sea each summer collecting data and yet as we move farther from the event funding is getting harder to come by.  What scares me here is the fact that we have a unique toxicological experiment going on in the Gulf and we need to grab every bit of data we can – from my perspective our team is running through a burning library grabbing whatever books we can before the fire (or the chemicals used to put it out) irreparably damage or destroy the books.  This then leads to what drives me as an individual.

I am impressed again and again by the depth of human compassion how people rise to the challenge when a crisis occurs. When the Tsunami devastated the Indian Ocean over $14 billion was raised internationally.  In 2010 $3.4 billion was raised for Haiti relief in a matter of months.

During the 86 days of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico millions of people were riveted to the video feed of oil escaping into the Gulf. They seemed to
become addicted to the live feed of an unfolding catastrophe. I thought that the
Gulf spill would be a pivotal moment in humanity’s relationship with the oceans. You can imagine, then, how stunned I was when the leak was capped and people simply changed channels and tuned out. For Gulf species and residents, the potential long-term consequences of one of the largest oil spill’s and greatest release of dispersants ever to occur on this planet are unimaginable. But with the images gone, public concern seems to vanish.

It seems that unless people have a strong, tangible image on which to focus their compassion, we are not very good at staying involved. I fail to understand how our species can be so compassionate and yet, in the case of the Gulf — the ultimate case of ocean pollution — so naive. Because the oceans are down hill from everything and gravity never sleeps, everything ends up in the seas; yet it appears that without imagery of an unfolding catastrophe everyone assumes that the oceans can take all that we throw at them.

When our President Roger Payne founded Ocean Alliance in 1971 he did so with the goal in mind of setting up a ‘pathfinder’ organization that would tackle the difficult jobs and blaze a trail. Over the last 39 years (working with our partners around the world) we have succeeded on this front at many levels, but I remain deeply concerned by the way that ‘The tragedy of the Commons’ is being played out in the oceans. Roger said in a 1979 National Geographic article, “Pollution has replaced the harpoon as a mortal threat to whales, and in its way
can be far more deadly.

Since that time, Ocean Alliance has been focusing its efforts on documenting
the levels and effects of ocean pollution on marine mammals, even though, given
our limited resources, it would be hard to tackle a more difficult job. The news on ocean pollution turns out to be deeply disturbing. Despite evidence that ocean pollution is affecting our lives and those of our children, people don’t seem to get engaged, let alone enraged about its potential consequences for whales and humanity.

Please, be enraged and get engaged!

Thanks to the support of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Global Ocean Alliance will continue to collect data in the Gulf of Mexico this year and, write scientific papers and inform educators, policy makers, and the general public on wiser stewardship of our irreplaceable oceans and their marine mammal populations, and on the links between healthy oceans and our own health.

We hope that you will join us on this journey and thank you for your support — Oceans Matter

Paint Factory–Ocean Alliance Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Supporters

IMG_2486 (2)Many Supporters attend the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and Recognition  Citation from the State of Massachusetts presented by State Senator Bruce Tarr , and State Rep Ann-Margaret Ferrante to Iain Kerr.





The great great grandson of Augustus Henry Wonson, founder of the Tarr & Wonson paint factory  also attended in support with his wife.



Paint Factory Restoration – Progress on “E” Building

IMG_0285  Ian Kerr from Ocean Alliance takes notes on progress at the Paint Factory.

They have come a long way. Removed all the paint pasted to the floors, installed radiate heat in the floors, all new walls inside, carpeting, plumbing, yet maintaining as much of the original wood as possible.

See GMG Video on the beginning.

The “E” Building is becoming a love of hard work and dedication.

This will be one of Gloucester’s Pride Land Mark.

GMG will keep you posted on this project.

Below are some photos of the Progress:



However Much More has to be done.


Only $12,000,000 To Go




Ocean Alliance, based on figures provided by the lead architect, has a goal of raising approximately $12 million to restore the ~ 20,000 Sq.ft buildings in a way that mediates existing contamination, maintains their historic exterior appearance while modeling the interior as a practical, accessible research, education and historic center.

Only $12,000,000?  Hopefully the architect throws in a blowjob to sweeten the deal.

John Atkinson Checks In From the Southern Hemisphere


hey joey, don’t say we were not thinking of everyone in beautiful gloucester. we finished our aerial photographic survey of the endangered southern right whales and got a few good shots! in one of the attached photo is of the pilot oscar, me, and science officer/camera asssistant marcos standing by our airplane. second shot of whale breach we got in the last hour of our survey  we all send greetings to everyone in gloucester! john atkinson


Gathering Epidermal Tissue Samples of Sperm Whales Aboard Ocean Alliance’s Odyssey

This video was taken 10 miles from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill


Ian Kerr writes in-

Hi Joey,

Sorry for not being in better touch but we have been keeping busy.

As I hope you are aware we are posting daily updates from the Gulf on our ocean alliance websites – do you want me to forward these to you I will – and you can pick an choose if you want to put them up.  Also we had Alexander Cousteau on the Odyssey and have some good blogs from her also, the links are following:

Thanks to the donation (& installation) of a V SAT aboard Odyssey we have posted daily voyage logs on the both the Ocean Alliance & USM websites www.oceanalliance.org, http://usm.maine.edu/toxicology/gulf/index.php and we have developed a large audience on our face book pages ‘A race to Save our oceans’ and ‘Ocean Alliance’.

We had a great interaction with Alexandra Cousteau’s group Blue Legacy.

There is a guest blog from Dr. John Wise on the blue legacy website with a really neat picture looking down on Alexandra and John from the midlevel platform: http://www.alexandracousteau.org/field/expedition-blog/sea-cameraman-ian

The Blue Legacy cameraman (Ian) also wrote a blog about his time aboard Odyssey with us:


There are some photos and articles of us with Alexandra on the National Geographic website including a great one of Cathy Wise and Alexandra Cousteau at the microscope in the boat lab:

Anne Casselman, the expedition Writer, for Expedition Blue Planet, the project that is being lead by Alexandra Cousteau also wrote a nice story which is up on the USM site:


This expedition, and the network of partners we have, combined with the value of the Gulf research analysis we plan to independently release, can have a significant, long-term effect on how the Gulf ecosystem is restored and how policy decisions relating to drilling and the use of oil dispersants are made.

Here is the interview I did with Ian the day they left Gloucester to begin their incredible expedition on July 8,2010-

Keep up the good work.

chickity check it! an ocean alliance/john atkinson blog note from argentina

John is on his way to Argentina to particpate in his 19th annual aerial survey of the endangered southern right whales that gather each year in the waters near Peninsula Valdes to mate and give birth to their calves

Click the picture to check it out-


Ocean Alliance Odyssey Log For Day 57 From John Pierce Wise

interesting day for odyssey……

Day 57, September 11

Today was an interesting day.  We saw and heard no whales for most of the day making it a very slow day.  There were a few dolphins bow riding that left shortly after we reached the bow. There were some birds.  There were some oil slicks from some boat that cleaned its bilge pumps into the water. The water was a smooth as glass (thanks again Mr. Atkinson) but no whales. Oh, I should also mention now that I forgot to include Mr. Mark Hayes as part of our Ocean Alliance team -no offense Mark one just loses track of things at sea. Mark too is an invaluable part of the team.

Thus, the day provided a chance for me to catch up on work from home writing papers and abstracts etc. I am pleased to report our first abstract from the voyage was accepted for publication and will be presented in Portland, Oregon on November 10th. Johnny and Matt got caught up on their online classes.  Bob, Sandy, Carolyne and Ian caught up on some much needed duties and sleep. Matt, Johnny and I too caught up on sleep.  I have now had enough to become merely exhausted and should sleep well tonight.

I thought you might be curious to know how we visualize whale clicks and dolphin whistles on the boat. I have attached some PDF documents of them. Please excuse the picture quality I was rushing out to see the dolphins and the sun’s glare was on part of the screen.  The dolphin whistles are primarily seen in one program and the sperm whale clicks are tracked in another.   The dolphin whistles are mostly yellows and orange and reds. When farther away they look like squiggles and streaks on the screen as you will see from the picture labeled "dolphin clicks away from boat". When near the boat the screen is bathed in colors as you will see from the attached picture of "dolphins near the boat".  We can hear them over the array as they whistle and it really is fascinating to hear all of the clicks and whistles and wonder where they are and what they are saying.

The sperm whale picture is from another program and their clicks are visualized as circles of color.  In this picture they are in the upper part of the picture and are large black circular dots.  The line they are slightly above is the center line of the boat. Our goal is to put they at the top of that white box above the line which means they are on our bow. Below the line then means they are on our stern and we have to turn around. In this way, we can follow the whales. we can also hear them on the array too. They sound like popcorn popping and at times horse hooves on cobblestone roads.

When we hear sperm whales clicking we know they are most likely underwater as they rarely click at the surface. So we follow them acoustically listening to the clicks and moving the boat so the dots are at the top of the box.  Then when they are quiet we rely on our team watching to find the blows.  Today, we heard and saw nothing…that is until 2 pm when First Mate Ian heard clicks on the array and started turning the boat. About 2:30 pm, Johnny called out from the midlevel platform that he saw a whale blow and we headed for it. The team was assembled and ready to go, but the whale dove deep, which you can tell when its tail flukes out of the water.

Now sperm whales dive deep (over a mile) and long (about an hour). So we waited, listening all the while to the whale click and eat.  Then a little after 4 pm Carolyne spotted the whale from the top of the pilot house and again we headed towards it. Again it dove deep before we could even get close. At a little after 5 pm, Carolyne spotted the whale again, this time from the midlevel platform, and again it dove. About 6:15 pm. Bob spotted the whale from the pilot house and again it dove.  One lone whale just out of reach.  Iain Kerr described this exact sort of experience when he was on during the first couple of days, but I think he was referring to groups of whales you couldn’t quite reach not just this lone whale.

By now, we had the pattern. The whale would surface somewhere shortly after 7 pm. Carolyne wondered what the reward was for the person who saw the whale that led to a biopsy. A number of humorous suggestions were radioed to her including that the winner gets to be on the cover of a Japanese whaling magazine called "Let’s go whaling"! In the end, it was decided it would be ice cream in port. About 7 pm everyone could smell dinner and questions rose. I was hopeful we would get one last try at a sample so I said no dinner would not be at 7 pm tonight.

Carolyne expressed her hunger so I sent Johnny up to relieve her. But when I went outside he was on the bowsprit. So I asked Johnny which part of "go up and relieve Carolyne" was unclear. To which Carolyne yelled down that she was not about to be relived with only about 20 minutes left of daylight. At this point, I realized two things. My  team was determined to get a sample and time was our enemy as light was fading fast.  Well, three things- Carolyne really wanted that ice cream too! 

The sun set. Bob saw the green flash as the sun went in the water. It was about 7:20 pm and no whale and the light was going quickly. I was just about to call it a day, when Carolyne called out "whale blow behind us" and like that we turned around and headed that way.  Someone called out that the whale was about 2 miles away. I gulped because this outcome had been the pattern. Every time that whale had surfaced it had been about 2 miles away and we never quite got there. Captain Bob expressed his surprise and frustration that the whale was that far off.  It looked to both of us and I imagine the whole team that with the fading light and the distance we would once again come up short.

Then a different sound caught my ear. The boat engine had reached a higher pitch. We began racing through the water.  I looked in the pilothouse at the gauges. Captain Bob typically has the boat at 1400 rpm when on whales. Now, it was over 2000 rpm and we were doing 8-9 knots (very fast for this boat). In short, Captain Bob had had enough and it was a last ditch effort to get a sample. The entire team was as determined as a team can be.

We approached the whale. It did not move. Closer. Closer. Still not moving. Closer and then as it had before it started to dive. Johnny readied for an attempt with Rick right behind him in case of a miss.  We were close enough and had time enough for just maybe one try.  Johnny took it from the bow and it bounced off the whale. Ian took a picture of the tail as the whale completed its dive. Matt quickly gathered the data. I grabbed the net and tried to recover the arrow. Captain Bob threw in the ring to mark the arrow and we turned around to get it.

The recovery was not simple. I tried with the net. Matt tried with the hook. Then just before Captain Bob was going to try and lean down into the water, I caught it with the net and explained that  I could not have Bob moving my job as well. Matt took the arrow, noted a good sample, and also noted that the arrow tip had practically become unscrewed. He then processed the sample. The light faded into darkness and Carolyne had won her ice cream!

I held up dinner until Matt was through in the lab and then we all sat on the back deck enjoying Sandy’s dinner, recounting the events of the sampling (Bob was to describe it as a half court pass leading to a three pointer at the buzzer to win the game). It certainly had that feel to it. We spent the rest of the meal swapping stories and admiring the beautiful night sky. 

Only one sample today, but in many ways the best one yet.


John Pierce Wise, Sr., Ph.D.

Director, Maine Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health

Dolphin whistle away from boat-


Dolphin Whistles near boat-


Sperm whale clicks being tracked-


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