NewsPinellas County


Team of scientists trying to save endangered whale visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Posted at 2:50 PM, Mar 18, 2021

CLEARWATER — Marine biologists are often found on boats or diving through the water, but there is a special team who actually work on airplanes, watching aquatic life from high above the surface.

They are known as Right Whale Aerial Observers and this week they are visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

“Its really important that these animals are being watched and monitored to provide the information to keep them safe,” said Melanie White, of the White Whale Aerial Survey Team.

One thousand feet above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida and Georgia is where her and her team can often be found.

With less than 400 Right Whales left in the world, the team is constantly collecting data and alerting humans of their location. The whale's biggest threat is being caught in fishing nets and struck by boats.

“My favorite part is definitely putting in my little grain of sand in my efforts to save this critically endangered species that is dwindling down,” said Ashley Millan Ambert.

Visitors of the aquarium had a unique opportunity, particularly, children to learn about this rare species.

“I especially love talking to little girls because a lot of them don’t know that this is a possibility that they can get to be scientists too,” said Ambert.

The four person team is made up of three women. They said they can’t do it alone, if the Right Whale is going to dodge extinction it’s up to the scientists of tomorrow.

“I grew up nowhere near the ocean, what girl from upstate New York knows what the ocean is all about, and I just think it's just so important to know that we can do anything,” said White.

The Illushik sisters spent five minutes with the team and they were ready to dive in head first.

“The top of the head can be white and you can learn how old they are and see their scratches,” said 9-year-old Julianna, who said she would like to be a marine biologist herself one day.

The whale education continues on at the aquarium with a new whale exhibit, "Living with Giants," set to open this weekend.