Onward and Upward

Hello Rapunzel Project Followers.  AWF deployed a new hydrophone at the Five Finger Lighthouse this summer!  It’s very exciting that our former lighthouse home is still listening.  Fred has just returned from Frederick Sound and I’m expecting a visit from him in just a few days to fill me in on the details of the setup.  I’m unsure as to how the data will be used, but if all goes well the sounds of the sea should be streaming online for you to listen too shortly.  You can read more about the installment on AWF’s official blog here

While you’re over there be sure to look around AWF’s new website.  It’s a beautiful release (I’m a little jealous to be perfectly honest) and is being well maintained by Andy and the crew.  If you read through the blog you’ll see a little note from me on the continuing acoustic work that I’m doing with AWF during my PhD.  Which leads me to my next and final point.It’s been two years since I’ve called the Five Finger Lighthouse my home.  While there is a strong possibility of my return in the future (possibly sooner than later), the Rapunzel Project research is nearly complete.  Andy and I have a publication in the works, and another on the way, and I’ve completed my M.S. degree and am well into my PhD.  In an effort to consolidate all of my research projects into a single page (right now I’m blogging for four different organizations) I’ve decided to put this site to bed and move things over to my personal page:



This blog will remain active, so you can come back and remember what it was like to be here, or dream about what it might have been like to come someday- but I will no longer update these pages.  All of the posts from this site have migrated to my new site.  I encourage you to follow me there (you can see my blog posts from the Rapunzel Project, as well as from my new academic home with the ORCAA Lab, and my posts as a SeaGrant Scholar).  It’s been a glorious experience… and it’s not over yet.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Alaska Whale Foundation has a new website!

The long awaited unveiling of the Alaska Whale Foundation’s website has finally occurred!  AWF team members (mostly Andy and Adam) have worked tirelessly to get the AWF website up to speed.  We’ve been seeing a lot of exciting changes in the organization (like the advent of our interpretive center in Baranof Warm Springs Bay) and wanted to make sure that the online face of AWF was an accurate representation of who we are and what we’re working on.

I encourage all of the Rapunzel Project followers to head over the the website (www.alaskawhalefoundation.org) and have a look around.  You’ll be able to hear sound clips of social calls recorded in the field, read the official AWF blog (including posts by OSU grad student Courtney Hann), and see how you can get involved. Go ahead and like them on facebook too 🙂

Being a graduate fellow with AWF has easily been one of the most rewarding experiences of my academic and professional career.  The new website is a great reflection of the dynamic organization that AWF has become.  I encourage you to check the site often for updates that may not make it to this blog.

More to come from me on the status of Rapunzel Project publications and research.





Posted in Whale Research | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Three years and still excited

Last week I got an e-mail from a student in South America who wanted to join the Rapunzel Project field team for the summer of 2014;  I get these from time to time.  I try to respond to everyone who e-mails me, but admittedly sometimes putting the words “we do not currently have plans for a 2014 field season” down in an e-mail is tough for me.

Particularly since the research isn’t done.

Before I became a biologist (a term that I only now feel I can fully begin to embrace) when I imagined research I saw boats, and radios, laboratories and beakers, and heated conversations among colleagues- who may or may not have been shouting “Eureka” from time to time.  What I didn’t see in my imagination was the days, weeks, and months on the calendar that it takes to see a project from start to finish.

The Rapunzel Project field portion is over for now.  I can confidently tell you that the data is processed and we know a lot more about humpback whale vocal behavior than we did when we began putting the project on paper in 2010!  Even though the first manuscript is drafted and conferences are in the works (I’ll see you in San Francisco Acoustical Society), the research still isn’t over.

There’s another manuscript in process.  I’m still poring over the numbers and finding results that Andy I debate lively (I’m still waiting to hear the words Eureka come out of his mouth…. not yet).  While it may have taken a few years to figure out what the whales were saying it will take a least a few more weeks yet to put these call types into a social context.  So yes, the sexy part is over.  I’m no longer in danger of running out of water, or watching Noble Steed drift out to see.  But the drama hasn’t stopped- it’s just grown  subtle. This part has to be done privately.

I’m happy to announce, however, that AWF’s commitment to education has only intensified since the Rapunzel Project started.  AWF’s newest branch is the Southeast Alaska Coastal Research and Education Center (CREC), which will be centered out of Warms Springs Bay, AK on the eastern shore of Baranof Island.  A campaign is underway to bring the CREC up and running so AWF can continue to conduct important research, offer comprehensive education experiences, and engage the greater community of Southeast Alaska and our visitors.  Check out how things are going and see how you can get involved at the CREC website:


As always thanks for checking in!


Posted in Uncategorized, Whale Research | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Academy for Lifelong Learning: Lecture tomorrow

Tomorrow at 1:30 I will be giving a lecture for the Academy of Lifelong Learning (ALL) in Corvallis.  ALL is an academy created for people in the Corvallis community interested in pursuing not just a single education, but a lifetime’s worth of education.  It was created (or is at least supported by) the OSU Alumni association and is attended by the Corvallis retiree community, recent and longtime alumni of the university, and members of the community.

The talk I’ll be giving tomorrow will discuss interactions between humans and whales throughout history and the impact of whaling on human development.  I will also take some time to explain our research at the lighthouse and describe how our work in Alaska contributes to the body of known information on humpback whales.


Posted in Whale Research | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ocean Mysteries

(Ok Ryan…. for you I post….. )

Well that and I have something important to tell you all.  It looks like Saturday morning ABC will be airing Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin featuring the Alaska Whale Foundation and the Rapunzel Project!

The Rapunzel Project portion is short, but it’s there.  So check out Ocean Mysteries and catch a super quick glimpse of yours truly and our beloved Five Finger Lighthouse home.  It’s also worth the watch for the beloved humpback whales, and there’s a lot of great footage.

On the science side of things things here in Oregon are still unfolding.  Now in addition to call types we have call classes and we’re moving forward with not just “what” the whales are saying, but which whale is saying it.

More when the noise dins and the clock slows down- Miche

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Does Sound Look Like?

Before I can begin running analysis on the data we collected over the summer it first must be processed.  While I may have dreamed of attending to data in the field (and to a degree  that was done) the bulk of the data processing is being done retroactively. Preparing sound files for analysis is easily the most labor intensive part of this research phase.

We collected over 300 sound files, and a minimum of 248 of them require fine scale attention.  This means that  every vocalization our interns heard in the field while floating  in Noble Stead must be listened to again during the verifying process, again as I measure its parameters, and yet again as it is placed into a broad vocal category.  Sounds were initially categorized by ear as we intuitively began to recognize certain call types.  They are further categorized, however, not by ear but by sight.  For each sound listened to (once, twice, three times listened to) I create what’s called a spectogram- or a picture of the sound.  This picture allows us to see the shape of the sound, the duration, the frequency, and the modulations.  Obviously, things that look the same should sound the same.
So, what do humpback whale calls look like?  Like this-

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Whale Research | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heceta Head Conference

This gallery contains 1 photo.

I had the good fortune to present a poster on our research at the Heceta Head Conference this past Saturday.  It stood as a stark reminder for me that 1) what we study is both interesting and important and 2) … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments