• Fin whale
  • Blue whale
  • Deploying the National Geographic Crittercam on Sperm whales
    In the Picture: Kyler Abernathy from National Geographic Remote Imaging

Scientific Research

WHAT WE ACHIEVED SO FAR

  • Krill identification
    We identified the krill species our baleen whales feed upon in the Azores. It turns out to be Northern Krill (Meganyctiphanes norvegica).
    Fin whales feeding on Northern krill off Pico Island (Azores) during spring migration.
  • Blue whales
    We built a catalogue of over 100 photo-identified Blue whale individuals (Balaenoptera musculus). Through a very active collaboration with other research groups in the North Atlantic, we now know more about the movements of the biggest animal ever to live on our planet. Some of our Blue whales have also been sighted in Ireland, Spain and Svalbard.
  • Humpback whales
    Some of our Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) were re-sighted off Cape Verde and then they were seen again off Norway. Along with similar evidence collected by other research groups, this confirmed the Azores as an opportunistic foraging habitat for the Eastern North Atlantic Humpback whale population, strategically located between their low-latitude breeding grounds and their high-latitude foraging grounds.
    The Azores Constitute a Migratory Stopover for Humpback Whales in the North Atlantic Ocean.
  • The mysterious True's beaked whale
    We contributed to shed light on the mysterious True's beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus), co-authoring a paper that currently represent the state-of-the-art of the knowledge of this poorly known species in the Macaronesia (a collection of 4 archipelagos: Azores, Canaries, Cape Verde and Madeira).
    True’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus) in Macaronesia. Natacha Aguilar de Soto et al.
  • Genetic Analysis of baleen whale faecal samples
    After 6 years of struggling with samples that seemed to only contain very degraded DNA, a new collaboration with the research group of Professor Michael Traugott (University of Innsbruck) finally afforded positive identification of both predator and prey (i.e. baleen whales and krill).
Krill sample
Krill sample (Meganyctiphanes norvegica)

DOING MORE THAN BUSINESS

CW Azores is an official Whale Watching operator in the Azores that also conducts non-commercial scientific research, aimed at safeguarding local cetaceans and other marine life.

Research at sea is notoriously expensive and often represents a bottleneck in the study of marine mammals, as many species of cetaceans can travel tens or even hundreds of kilometres in a single day.

As a Whale Watching operator, we can combine some of the needs of both business and research and make the most of the 1500 to 2000 hours we spend at sea each year.

Our research projects are conducted either independently and in collaboration with academic institutions and NGOs.

Sperm whales spyhopping - Photo by Justin Hart
Sperm whales spyhopping - Photo by Justin Hart

OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS

Each year CW Azores offers the opportunity for some students to participate in our activities as interns or trainees. While most trainees are framed within programmes such as Erasmus+, quite a few have completed their Bachelor's Degree on projects where one of our scientists acted as a co-supervisor.

The internships are most suitable for students of degree courses in the following disciplines:

  • Biology / Marine Biology
  • Life Sciences / Natural Sciences
  • Science of Tourism

The following requirements are considered necessary for all types of students:

  • Fluency in English (the official language of the Team CW Azores)
  • Good knowledge of computers and standard software (word processors, spreadsheets, etc.)
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Enthusiasm and determination in learning and achieving results
  • Good communication skills

In addition, students engaged in field activities (as field cetologists) need the following requirements:

  • Little tendency to suffer from seasickness or, alternatively, good ability to handle the disorder.
  • Strong interest in the study and protection of cetaceans.
  • The number of hours spent in the boat is high and working conditions are sometimes far from comfortable.
  • Good divulgation skills.

The student will acquire knowledge of the biology and behavior of cetaceans, and will need to share this knowledge with clients as well as use it for research.

Fin whale faecal sample - Photo by Enrico Villa
Faecal sample of a Fin whale that clearly fed on krill - Photo by Enrico Villa
Krill jumping off the water to escape baleen whale predation - Photo by Justin Hart
Krill jumping off the water to escape baleen whale predation - Photo by Justin Hart

Help the Manta Catalog Azores Project

Join us in supporting the scientists who work very hard for the conservation of mobulas and mantas.

If you are a diver, or simply had a chance to photograph a manta or mobula during any tour out at sea in the Azores, please send your photos to the Manta Catalog Azores Project (all details below).

The Manta Catalog Azores Project aims at providing a better understanding of the spatial ecology of Mobulid rays and the threats they are facing. In particular, the researchers want to learn where, when and why these animals aggregate at particular areas in the Atlantic Ocean, such as the seamounts in the Azores. For this, they have developed a photo-ID catalog and a sightings database (number of animals seen on each dive), with the help of citizen scientists (divers that provide data) and their collaborator dive centers, like us.

You can learn more downloading the manual we received from scientist Ana Filipa Sobral, M.Sc.
Manta Catalog Azores Project (PDF, 2.2 MB)

Important links:

Manta Catalog Azores - how you can help
Manta Catalog Azores - how you can help

Access the Manta Catalog Azores Project website
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Common dolphins - Photo by George Karbus
Common dolphins - Photo by George Karbus