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Researchers map virtual reality of whales' environment

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Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia details new whale tagging technology which enables recreation of their virtual environment.


Although a lot is known about whales and how they live, their deep sea environment is, by its nature, very mysterious. Recent work done by the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Washington, however, could offer some virtual insight. For the past 10 years, a team lead by Jeremy Goldbogen of the University of British Columbia has been tagging the backs of cetaceans (whales) which track the depth, sound, and various other parameters. These tags eventually (after a set period of time has passed) fall off, float to the surface, then emit a radio signal so they can be picked up, and the data collated. New tag technology, however, detects changes in the whales' orientation in their own space, creating a picture of its virtual environment in a way which hasn't been possible in the past. The new sensors enable a recreation of what the whales are doing, revealing details about not only their location, but their feeding habits as well. The next goal of the project is for researchers to investigate the theory that sonar disorients whales, causing them to become stranded on beaches.