Discoveries and Explorations

The year 2011 at the Pacific WildLife Foundation was eventful with some intriguing new discoveries. Jim Darling and Tim Frasier published their findings on the genetics of gray whales. It was widely believed that the eastern Pacific gray whales belonged to one large herd. Then Jim and Tim showed that the whales that spent the summer along the BC coast were genetically different from the rest of the herd. This discovery suggested that there might distinct groups among the herd that warranted particular management.

Also with whales, Jim Darling, Rod MacVicar and Rob Butler were in Maui working on Jim’s project to understand why humpbacks sing where they photographed a whale that was at least 30 years old (see previous post).

Also in 2011, we got a clearer picture of the migration routes of a seaduck known as the Barrows goldeneye. Most of the world population of this sea duck spends the winter on the north Pacific coast. Its nesting grounds in the interior of British Columbia was well known but where it moulted its feathers was a mystery. Sean Boyd and Dan Esler attached satellite radios to a few of the ducks that allowed the birds to be tracked through the year. They knew that many ducks flew to lakes in Alberta but they also found out that some went north to moult their feathers before returning to the coast in autumn.

Pacific WildLife is a partner in the BC BreedingBird Atlas that is drawing to a close soon. We helped out by going on an exploration along the eastern side of the Strait of Georgia to record breeding birds including documentation of several small seabird colonies. These data along with the entire atlas data set for BC are displayed in maps of each species that you see on the web site.

We got started on an Important Cetacean Area (ICA) project this year. The aim is to identify places that are important for feeding, nursing, where large numbers of cetaceans habitually frequent, and so on. We have been visiting colleagues, drawing maps and much more that we will soon post on our web site. Funding for this project came from the Foundation and an anonymous donor.

There is much more going on in the Foundation and several new projects that will begin in 2012.  We have some new Fellows who are bringing fresh ideas too. The Foundation began over three decades ago as West Coast Whale Research and changed its name to Pacific WildLife in 2003. Most of our funding comes from research grants but we are are especially grateful to donors who provide us with support with no strings attached. This support allows the Foundation to delve into new projects, such as the ICA. If you would like to know more about us, click on the our web site or drop us a note.




About rob butler

I am a scientist, author and naturalist with over four decades of field study of wild animals. You can read more at my web site at
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