ORCAS INSPIRE PEOPLE TO CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE. AN INTERVIEW WITH ORCALAB FOUNDER.

ELSE, (Emerging leaders for Solar Energy), is partnering with the Great Climate Race and Bullfrog Power to raise funds to fund a unique whale research facility on the BC coast, OrcaLab, to get off diesel power and run on 100% renewable energy.   

You can turn your daily walking and running activity into fundraising opportunities for this important project. Until the end of 2017 Novo Solar will match every dollar raised. Get started today:

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The OrcaLab is an amazing place doing important work. We caught up with their founder Dr. Paul Spong to learn more.

About Dr. Paul Spong

  • Originally from New Zealand
  • He’s a neuroscientist and cetologist (the branch of zoology dealing with whales and dolphins)
  • Dr. Spog has researched orcas in British Columbia, Canada for almost 50 years
  • In 1972 he moved to Hanson Island and established the OrcaLab

ORCALAB’S PHILOSOPHY: LEAVE THE WHALES ALONE

Dr. Spong explains, “OrcaLab’s research is land-based, and as a matter of philosophy it’s research without interference. The approach works well in our area, with its many waterways & relatively small distances. OrcaLab’s location on Hanson Island at Blackney Pass is perfect for reception of radio signals from Johnstone Strait & Blackfish Sound, two of the most important areas used by the whales.”

Dr. Spong explains that they’ve developed a network of remote hydrophone stations that provides acoustic coverage of much of the orcas’ core habitat. Adding, “this remote system enables us to follow the whales. In the past these were mostly acoustic, but recently we’ve been able to incorporate video. We now have a network of six remote hydrophone stations, and a network of ten remote cameras.”

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MEETING ORCALAB’S ENERGY NEEDS WHILE ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE

As both a place of research, and the place the team calls home, Dr. Spong describes the lab as “fairly complex, and capable of using a lot of energy.” He points out that they do cook with a wood-burning stove, and explains, “when we started the lab in 1970 we basically had no energy source at all; then incorporated a small gas powered generator to charge our VHF radio batteries for a little bit of communication with the outside world.”

OrcaLab’s energy needs began to change as they started developing the systems and capabilities to monitor the whales remotely. He’s quick to point out that today “our energy needs keep escalating, in particular as our technology and communication needs expand. Since the early ‘80’s we’ve being trying to boost our energy capacity by using solar. We’ve bit by bit increased our ability to meet our energy needs using solar.”

 

Today the goal is to get Orcalab as close to 100% renewable energy using a mixture of solar panels and batteries.

WHY PROTECTING ORCAS MEANS STAYING OUT OF THEIR WAY

It’s worth appreciating that OrcaLab’s want to help people feel a connection to these amazing creatures without disturbing their lives. As he said, “it’s a tricky balance. You have to think about ways in which people become involved with the environment, coming to care about it, and ultimately coming to protect it.”

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Bringing us into contact with the orca in a benign way “is helping people learn and care about them, and this in turn leads to the understanding that their habitat needs to be protected.” We wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Spong when he says, “I think it’s a big message for the environment.”

ORCA LAB GOAL: TO GET OFF DIESEL AND ONTO RENEWABLE ENERGY

Being on Northern Vancouver Island there is no shortage of cloudy and rainy days, which dictates the need for more solar capacity.

“Our whole objective is to become oil free, which is what we’re really hoping the Great Climate Race will allow us to become,” Dr. Spong added.

We’re thinking about this story from our human connection with nature and climate as well; he points our that “the work we do with orcas inspires people to care about the environment. Not just our work, but the orcas themselves inspire people. In a large part the work we do is an attempt to help people understand the lives of the orcas which in turn gives them context and a connection to their own lives.”

If you would like to walk or run to raise funds for this important project you can get started today.

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