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CETACEA Project

CETACEA Ecuador Project has researched humpback whales since 1996. Our goal is to bring attention to the critical need for improving the health of the oceans and preventing the decline of whales and other marine creatures.

Our research focuses on the southeastern hemisphere population of humpbacks, who mate and are born in Ecuadorean waters from June through September, then migrate 3500 miles to the Antarctic to feed on plankton. The whales return to Ecuador every summer, giving us a chance to learn about these magnificent creatures and understand how they are affected by human activity from close range.

Our research activities include collecting DNA samples from adult whales. DNA sampling provides insight into the relatedness of humpback whale populations around the world and the genetic diversity of these populations. Genetic diversity is an important indicator of resilience to environmental changes. We also are taking photo-ID for individual recognition and underwater acoustic recordings of the incredibly complex and information-rich whale songs. The male humpback has the longest and most complex song of the entire animal kingdom. Analyzing these recordings will provide clues to why and how they communicate with each other, and how they may be disturbed by human activities such as shipping vessel and tourist vessels. 

Currently, the project will use unmanned vehicle aerial (drones) to continue studied the body condition of whales, for example the presence of propeller scars due to boat collision and fishing nets interaction in their breeding areas.

We hope that our research and stories will bring amazing creatures like humpback whales closer to people and help people realize the critical importance of ocean conservation.

Current members of the team are:
Judith Denkinger., PhD, Director and founder CETACEA Project.
Javier Oña, MSc., a cetacean acoustical biologist and founder bioacoustics program CETACEA Project. 
Ana Eguiguren, MSc, a cetologist and associate research CETACEA Project.
Mateo Valencia, undergraduate student and coordinator of drone activities CETACEA Project.
Liza Díaz Lalova, an environmentalist Co-founder and Executive Director for Nature Frames, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Video Chronicler.
Pieter Vant Hof, Ph.D., Professor of Microbial Genetics at University San Francisco de Quito.
Natalie DeWitt, Ph.D., a cell and molecular biologist with 30 years of experience in biomolecular research and scientific publishing.

We also have some scientific collaborations and working with local fishermen and conservation groups here in coastal Ecuador.