From Beluga to Minke Whales
In the late Seventies, when Ned Lynas arrived in the area, very few people were aware of the richness and diversity of marine life in the St. Lawrence Gulf and Estuary. At the beginning Ned's main interest was in the beluga whales who live in these waters year-round. Spending hours in the field he discovered that a variety of baleen whale species were also regularly present during the summer months. He rhen began to shift his focus towards these unknown giants. In the mid-Nineties, when whale watching tourism increased rapidly, Ned had to shift his focus once more, to the (at that time) mostly ignored smallest representative of the giant rorquals, the minke whale.
Despite the shifts in species studied, ORES continued to follow the same research interests Ned develpoed at the beginning; to study the long-term distribution, habitat use and behaviour of free living whales in their natural environment, applying minimally intrusive research methods. Up to the late Eighties, Ned Lynas personally funded his research. This eventually lead to such a strong commitment to the research that other funding sources were needed. In 1990 Martin Bachmann from Switzerland volunteered for the first time for ORES. He and Ned then developed a unique funding concept:
‘Help with the funding – Help with the research.’
A few years later the two founded the Swiss non-profit organization Foundation for Marine Environment Research. Its mandate is to promote, internationally, ORES’ scientific and educational programs and to share knowledge gained. Since 1993 hundreds of volunteers of all ages and origins have participated in our field courses, not only providing crucial funding but also helping to collect invaluable research data.
In 1993 Ursula Tscherter joined ORES for the first time. As time went on and due to her facination with whales, she began dedicating more and more time to the whales and the Foundation . In 2002, the death of Ned Lynas seriously threatened ORES’ future. Following her strong commitment and dedication Ursula decided to continue his legacy and the minke whale research.
Today, after more than 15 years of dedicated research the window into the fascinating but secret world of the St. Lawrence minke whales is wide open.