The Blue Whale Study kicked into being in 1998. Several years of involvement in cetacean research projects in Australia and internationally, and a growing awareness of upwelling events and blue whale activity in waters around south west Victoria, spurred Dr Pete Gill into establishing the Study.
For the first critical years, this fledgling not-for-profit research organisation was funded by the Australian Government’s Natural Heritage Trust. During these early stages, Pete completed his PhD on the Bonney Upwelling blue whale feeding area (see link to his thesis ‘Ecological linkages within the Bonney Upwelling blue whale feeding area’). These studies helped hone the initial focus of the Study.
In 2000, Pete was joined by Margie Morrice. Their 14 year collaboration saw them study varying aspects of blue whale ecology such as foraging behaviour, population genetics, movements between areas and patterns of residency. They also undertook photo-identification of individual whales they encountered, an important and ongoing component of current research.
Twenty years on, and the accumulated knowledge from the Blue Whale Study’s long-term research has resulted in international recognition for Pete, his scientific team and the Blue Whale Study.
The scientific team work in southern Australian waters between Bass Strait and the Great Australian Bight during summer and autumn. This is when blue whales migrate north from Antarctic waters to feed in the Bonney Upwelling region. The drive for our enduring research efforts comes from a deep desire to meaningfully contribute to improving the conservation status of this remarkable animal. Seeing a global increase in blue whale numbers and improvement in their habitat and food sources would be a joyous thing!