Saturday, March 24 , 2018, 11:33 am | Fair 57º


Greenridge Sciences on Whales’ Trail

Goleta company ranges to Beaufort Sea to track oil industry activity's effects on bowhead whales.

[Editor’s note: I recently had the privilege of sitting in on Annette Bannister’s writing classes for home-schooled students held at the Goleta Valley Community Center. The 12 students — sixth- through eighth-graders — were quite accomplished writers and I was impressed by the maturity and range of their young voices. They were all attentive and polite kids, too.

We discussed some pretty complex issues, such as why there’s a separation between straight news and opinion, the need for an editorial board, and how best to structure an editorial. The discussions were spirited and everyone spoke up. The kids also peppered me with the more mundane but often vexing questions, such as how you use a second name reference when writing about a husband and wife. During one class, we made a field trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo where the students observed Noozhawk’s Rob Kuznia interview animal care supervisor Michele Green for a story on gorillas. One of their assignments was to write an editorial on the merits of home schooling; you read four of them earlier this week.

Over the next few days we’ll be publishing some of the news and feature stories written by these students — often collaboratively. I think you’ll be as impressed as I was and I hope you’ll take the time to comment on them. Remember, these are sixth- and seventh-graders and one eighth-grader.

Now, to answer your follow-up questions, “What about my kid?” and “How about my school?” In case you hadn’t noticed, Noozhawk is all about community journalism and we’re proud to have so many of you contribute to our coverage. E-mail me at [email protected] and I’d be happy to discuss how we might get your child involved, as well.

Thank you.

— William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk publisher]

From left, Noozhawk interns Drew Teel, Chase Fierro and Josh McElwee. Tyler Zamora is not pictured. (Annette Bannister photo)

Here in sunny Goleta, research is being done on the migration of the bowhead whales off of the freezing northern coast of Alaska. In a nondescript building near the Santa Barbara Airport’s control tower, Greeneridge Sciences Inc. is doing just that.

Dr. Charles R. Greene Jr., is the founder and president of Greeneridge Sciences. Greene began his research career many years ago when he spent more than a year during a research mission in Antarctica. Several years later, the federal government decided to name the geographical features of the Antarctic before other countries did. The government used the names of those who had wintered at the U.S. research bases there. Greene discovered his geographical name when a friend asked him “So, where are you on the map?” He looked up his name in a book of geographical locations and found it on a geographical ridge, named Greene Ridge. He then named his company after his geographical location.

Greeneridge Sciences is currently providing information for oil companies that are looking to produce oil in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s northern shore. Oil companies need permits to begin drilling for crude oil, and are not awarded a permit unless they can show the work will not have a negative effect on marine mammals and endangered species. Bowhead whales, which are found in the Beaufort Sea, are a species of mammals protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

One way oil companies may affect bowhead whales is through the use of seismic testing when searching for oil. Seismic testing involves a boat trailing an array of air guns shooting compressed air into the sea so devices can measure the reflection of the sound waves bouncing off the seafloor. In addition, native Eskimos historically hunt bowhead whales.

This is where Greeneridge Sciences comes in. Researchers place a group of seven to 11 Directional Autonomous Seafloor Acoustic Recorders, or DASARs, at locations where bowheads are known to migrate. The devices record audio data that is stored and later retrieved.

Greeneridge analyst Sara Tennant listens to all the sounds that the DASARs record. She determines if the sound is a whale call, air guns, seal, walrus, or if the source is undetermined. When she listens to the whales, she classifies and measures the whale calls in the area. Afterward, she sends the data to a statistician who will make plots and graphs to look for patterns.

The patterns show how many whale calls were classified and the patterns of movement of the calling bowheads. It shows “how the locations of calling bowheads change in the presence of airgun pulses,” said Greene, and that “when airguns were operating … fewer bowhead calls were received.” The significance of these changes and their possible impact on the whales continues to be studied. Greene says there is no evidence of significant negative effects on the whales’ migration, feeding or reproduction, or on the Eskimos’ hunting successes.

Home-school seventh-graders Chase Fierro, Drew Teel and Tyler Zamora and sixth-grader Joshua McElwee are Noozhawk interns.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >