‘It takes a village to build a whale’: Dal’s Blue Whale project set to take off this fall – Dal News
Since 2017, Dalhousie’s Blue Whale Project has left a deep impression on everyone who meets it, from students and teachers to community members and volunteers. Now, just months away from the blue whale’s arrival at its final resting place in the Dal’s Steele Ocean Science Building, there is a buzz of excitement around the university.
“Things are definitely looking up,” says Gordon Price (pictured right), professor and program manager for the Innovation Waste Management Program at Dalhousie Agriculture Campus. “It feels like we’re getting closer to the finish line.”
The project, now five years old, has turned the tragic loss of an 18-metre blue whale into a learning opportunity for the Dal community and beyond.
“For years, I felt Dal needed a project like this,” says Dalhousie University veterinarian Chris Harvey-Clark. “In 2017, when I got the call from the Marine Animal Response Society that a blue whale had been found [near Liverpool, N.S.]I knew this was our chance.
After a thorough necropsy, a rigorous phase of composting and degreasing began with the help of Dr. Price’s team and supported by the Faculties of Agriculture and Science, as well as Dal students and community volunteers. . During this phase, the bones were also weighed and 3D scanned to develop a digital archive of the skeleton. In 2021, the complete skeleton was sent to Research Casting International (RCI), an Ontario company specializing in the preparation and assembly of museum exhibits.
Once completed, the bones will be shipped back to Halifax to be installed in the atrium of the Dal’s Steele Ocean Sciences Building. This phase of the project is on track to be completed this fall, which will result in the first blue whale show of its kind in Nova Scotia.
Further reading: Rebuild the greatest giant of the ocean
Showcasing Dal’s Assets
Since its inception, the Blue Whale Project has made full use of the resources available at Dalhousie, including education and research into ocean conservation and marine biodiversity.
“The project represents a complete picture of what we can do as a university,” says Dr. Price. “It’s about bringing together our roles as educators and scientists, using our expertise to create a shared experience between [Halifax and Truro] campus and share a tangible result with the wider community.
Dr. Harvey-Clark recalls his time as a veterinary student where he worked with a bottlenose dolphin, which became a defining moment for his career. “I hope it’s a very similar experience for students who have worked with the blue whale,” he shares. “Dal is a place where these experiences can be made available to students.”
Blue whale bones at Research Casting International in Ontario. (Photo by Chris Hogarth/RCI)
A wave of support
Like the two Drs. Price and Harvey-Clark are quick to point out that this project would not be possible without a helping hand. “It takes a whole village to build a whale,” says Dr. Harvey-Clark. “There was strength in the interdisciplinary nature of the project, in its collaboration. The outpouring of support has been tremendous. »
Both would like to thank the many people and organizations whose role in this project has been instrumental, including Pierre-Yves Daoust of the Atlantic Veterinary College, Laura Bourque of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, as well as people from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Species at Risk Act, Marine Animal Response Society and the New Brunswick Museum.
Dal alum Chris Hogarth (BComm’19) is now marketing director at RCI, the company that restores whale bones. He shares that displays of blue whales have become more common in recent years. “To a large extent, this is a pity, because more and more [blue whales] wash up on shore,” he says. “But the end result is heartwarming. It’s a chance to raise awareness – awareness of ocean conservation, research and much more.
A blue whale in the wild. (NOAA picture)
It’s this same mentality that has inspired donors around the world to support the project’s fundraising campaign, Dive In. To date, over 100 supporters (and counting) have named blue whale bones, which will be registered on part of the exhibition to be unveiled this fall. Through this support, current and future generations will be inspired to help save our oceans and their species.
“I was happy to support this project in honor of my uncle, Captain Johan Carlson Borgen, who was a prominent captain during the first half of the 20th century,” says Dal alumnus Chaytor (DDS’62 , MEd’91). “He always believed in putting an end to the slaughter of whales. To me, he was a hero.”
Another community supporter, Paul Edwards, shares, “My daughter Addison recently attended a community event where Dr Sarah Fortune, Chair of Great Whale Conservation at the Dal Oceanographic Department, spoke. I supported this project in recognition of her 6th grade graduation, her keen interest in science, and her inspiration from the work of Dr. Fortune.
Donations made to Dive In will continue to help support the time and resources needed to bring this one-of-a-kind exhibit to life later this fall.
“When visitors walk into the Steele Ocean Sciences Building and look up, they are amazed,” says Dr. Harvey-Clark. “It sends the message that this is something precious, something we need to protect. It’s more powerful than a radio or TV message. It’s something that will stay with you.
For more information on how you can help support Dive In: The Blue Whale Project, please visit projectdal.ca/bluewhale