Look Who’s Talking

Dr. Valeria Vergaras research into beluga communication demonstrates how animals use sound in the changing Arctic.

On the otherwise barren shore of the Cunningham River, a small red and white stripped yurt interrupts the blue arctic sky. For the 5 week duration of the arctic summer, this small tent is home base for Valeria Vergara, an expert on beluga communication. For two consecutive summers, Vergara made the long journey from the Vancouver Aquarium to the Arctic Watch Lodge at Cunningham Inlet to study the calls of the beluga whales who return every year by the hundreds and thousands to molt their skin, care for their new born calves, and bask in the cold arctic sun.

Valeria Vergara is an expert in beluga communication and behaviour. She became particularly curious about individual beluga contact calls when she discovered that calves in captivity learned calls identical to that of their mother during a study, she performed at the Vancouver Aquarium where she was working as a staff researcher. It became her goal to discover what these calls mean and if they can be attributed to an individual animal, like an acoustic name tag. Through her preliminary research, Vergara has made a number of discoveries concerning beluga communication and is looking forward to building on them through her upcoming projects…..

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Ocean Sonics featured in Marine Technology’s MTR100

Ocean Sonics manufactures the icListen Smart Hydrophone, an innovative passive acoustic monitoring system. Ocean Sonics combines smart electronics with very high signal performance to give customers reliable and easy to use hydrophone systems. This enables users to collect, record, measure and process sounds. Committed to the responsible collection of sound data from our oceans, Ocean Sonics has created hydrophone systems that are non-disruptive to sensitive ocean ecosystems. As a certifi ed B Corp company, Ocean Sonics meets rigorous social and environmental performance standards, rooted in accountability and transparency. Creating digital hydrophone arrays is now simple. Connect two or more icListen Smart Hydrophones together and they self-synchronize, operating as one. Whether using internal hydrophone memory, or logging multi-channel data externally, users record multichannel array data. The Ocean Sonics approach offers a range of geometries, including vertical, horizontal, very small geometrical arrays or spread out over many km.


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New Era of Humpback Whale Research

As featured in Sea Technology, July 2018 issue


For more than 15 years, Jupiter Research Foundation (JRF), based in Los Altos, California, has immersed itself in science and technology research and development with the primary objective of learning and creating something new. Over the years, JRF has broadcast live whale song to the world, analyzed electrical signals from single-cell organisms, developed an autonomous ocean-going amateur radio and microscope and co-invented a high-tech, ocean-going, unmanned surface vehicle, the Wave Glider (WG) that has revolutionized how researchers monitor the world’s oceans. This invention led to the formation of Liquid Robotics, a Sunnyvale, California, business that was acquired by The Boeing Co. of Seattle, Washington, in 2016. JRF has recently embarked on its most ambitious project yet: the Humpback Pacific Survey (HUMPACS). This mission combines two of JRF’s passions: humpback whales and radio technology….Click here for full article


A Month Without Plastic Challenge-Final Wrap-up


Ocean Sonics is a B Corp company. This means that we employ a triple bottom line policy; people, planet and profit. To help unpack that statement, Ocean Sonics believes that profit isn’t the only purpose for a business; we should be enriching our communities, employees and environment. That’s why we chose to take on this plastic free challenge. Working in our oceans we see first hand the kind of environmental devastation issues such as pollution and climate change can cause. We wanted to do our part to see if we could reduce our plastic pollution and divert at least some plastics away from our oceans.

Just because the 30 day challenge is complete doesn’t mean we are finished with our promise to the environment. Ocean Sonics as a team is looking for ways that we can further reduce our plastic and waste in general. Over the next month we will be rolling out initiatives to reduce waste, improve recycling and lessen our negative environmental impact.

Now on to what you have been waiting for: results!

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since we began our plastic free challenge. The participants started their challenge on June 8th, World Oceans Day, in an effort to raise some awareness about the glut of single use plastics that find their way into our oceans at an alarming rate (approx. 8 million tonnes every year, that’s roughly a garbage truck full of plastic every minute!)

The challengers chose to reduce, reuse and refuse as much plastic as possible over the course of 30 days. The purpose of the challenge was to eliminate whatever plastic we could and reduce and reuse what we couldn’t refuse.

We know that waste is a major issue. We as Canadians produce 720kgs of waste per capita annually. That’s 7% more than our American Counterparts, often heralded as the world leaders in excessive consumption.

Of the 720kg of waste we produce annually, about 7% of that is plastic, by weight. That works out to be 3.88kg per month of just plastic. Our goal was to see how much we could reduce our consumption of plastic over the course of 30 days. Each challenger was encouraged to refuse as much plastic as possible, find alternatives to plastic use and buy/use products without plastic packaging. Plastics that were unavoidable were set aside to be weighed and tallied at the end of the month.



Jay- 118 grams

Rose- 200 grams

Jillian- 306grams

Sharon- 431 grams

Jake- 523 grams


Grand total:1.598 kg


That’s less than half the monthly output of ONE Canadian!


What a great effort by all the challengers! This month, the changes we made prevented 17.8kg of unessesary plastic from entering landfills or being shipped to recycling facilities.



Let’s check in with our challengers







431 grams of plastic

It was easy to not use plastic grocery bags. I use Sobey’s recyclable bags instead.  I changed from individual yogurt containers to larger containers. It was difficult to buy meat that was not wrapped in plastic, however it was near impossible to have a party without chip bags

I enjoyed telling people about the plastic challenge but I didn’t do as well as I had hoped. I am more conscious of adding extra plastic at the grocery store. I still shopped at the same stores, I just chose different products.  I didn’t think it made sense to drive a longer distance to save plastic.

This challenge has shown me how much we mindlessly consume. I want to consume less overall, not just plastic. There are some behaviours I want to continue to implement in my day-to-day I want to reduce waste of all kinds.

Some sneaky packaging I found was convenience foods, they were all individually wrapped inside their outer packaging. It’s summer time so I bought individually wrapped ice cream bars. Could not help myself.

I thought I could do better at eliminating plastic but I am going to keep trying.

This challenge made me look at all types of waste.  I think plastic in itself is not a bad thing.  It is cheap, easy to make, and seems to use less of our natural resources than other types of packaging (ie paper).  I’m not sure we should stop using plastic,but I do think we need to use less and figure out better ways to recycle it so that it does not pollute our environment. Managing consumption and creating less waste overall is the direction we should be moving in.



118 grams of plastic (the lowest plastic waste by weight of the challengers!)

​Things that were easy for me were avoiding plastic drink cups, for the most part, since I’m old-fashioned and always prefer to eat in, even at fast food restaurants.  All of them but McDonalds could accommodate with a china mug or lidless cup.​ ​Buying meat without a Styrofoam tray was difficult and buying cucumbers without wrappers was almost impossible.

​​A high point of the challenge was realizing that A&W is way ahead of the class in using recycled paper instead of plastic.

A real low point was the utter hopelessness of buying meat and produce without plastic​

Throughout the challenge ​I stopped going to McD’s for breakfast since they couldn’t (wouldn’t) accommodate the challenge.  Breakfast at Tim’s and Masstown Market was business as usual.  I went back to buying most veg without the gratuitous plastic bags they expect you to wrap everything in.​

​I’m going to keep with eating in and avoiding plastic bags where possible.​

Sneaky or unnecessary packaging? Stupid cucumbers.​..

​I was surprised at how little plastic (about 100 grams) I did have to keep.  To be fair, I don’t do most of the shopping but I still figured it would be more.​

Grocery shopping was a real challenge. ​I feel like I should be able to buy meat in butcher paper instead of Styrofoam.  Why can’t I?



306 grams of plastic

Some easy changes for me to make this month included using reusable shopping bags or just carrying single items from the store. Also using reusable coffee cups.

The most difficult thing for me was avoiding plastic while grocery shopping! Is it just me or does all packaged food has some sort of plastic?? All the frozen foods I bought had some sort of plastic hidden beneath all that cardboard packaging. It is great to be able to buy all fresh fruit and veggies but sometimes they are not in season and they are usually more expensive and harder to keep for longer periods of time.

Another difficulty I had was at restaurants. They would automatically put straws in drinks and give mints with plastic at the end of the meal. Some take out containers were plastic, although most were cardboard. The cups that come with take-out meals are necessary when you are going through a drive-thru, so eliminating drinks from meals was difficult. Especially when McDonalds has dollar drink days with iced coffees!!!!

When you are busy and on the go it is sometimes difficult to find the time to bring food or buy food without plastic. There must be a conscious effort made to avoid plastic and plan ahead for meals, snack and drinks.

I made sure that I was not using plastic baggies to store food, small items, etc. and not using large garbage bags to transfers clothes, bedding, etc.

Buying any makeup, toothpaste, toothbrushes, nail polish without plastic is difficult especially when purchasing items from a store and not online. There are limited items to buy in stores to become more environmentally friendly such as bamboo straws, stainless steel straws, etc. You must purchase them online. Greater accessibility to more environmentally friendly products is important!

Just by participating in this challenge it encouraged my family to all think about their plastic use! They purchased paper straws and increased their use of their reusable water bottles. They are continuing to make an effort to reduce their plastic use.

I have finally got into the habit of taking reusable bags into the store.  I was commended a few times on refusing a plastic bag and carrying my items out of the store. I also enjoyed the challenge of making dinners without any food packaged in plastic or any plastic waste.

Some low points included forgetting my reusable bags and not having any coffee because there were only one-use plastic options. Also, forgetting a lunch and having to purchase items with plastic and not being able to find any chip options without plastic.

 Some behaviours I changed include eating fewer chips, less coffee and less condiments. I bought more reusable coffee mugs, so I would have a larger selection and it helps remind me to take one with me on my way to work in the morning. Less plastic products were purchased in stores. I reused zip lock bags and plastic bags that I had to use in stores. I also refused plastic bags when I only had a few items. I will continue to use my reusable bags and not use any plastic bags in the future! I will continue to use my reusable coffee mugs. Refused to buy plastic water bottles. I believe that the sale of plastic water bottles should be replaced with water fountains that allow people to obtain water for free.

 Some sneaky and unnecessary packaging I encountered were Coffee pods that claimed to be 100% compostable. The pod itself was compostable but they were all individually packaged in plastic. Paper straws were packaged in plastic! Individually plastic packaged items of frozen food in a cardboard box. Also, just a new discovery over the past few years is that every single child toy is unnecessarily packaged with so many small plastic parts, this is not only dangerous for kids but extremely unnecessary.

I thought I would have had much more plastic since I had only made small changes in my purchases. I knew that restaurants would be the hardest part but thankfully making sure I ordered items that had little to no plastic. Fast food is definitely the worst for items that contain plastic when you take away food.

I feel like anything an individual can do to reduce their plastic use is a step into the right direction. Being conscientious of what we are consuming and the amount of plastics that are involved is important. A simple reduction of plastic is a great start.

Our society is extremely reliant on plastic, not only as individuals but large organizations use unnecessary amounts of plastics and other materials that negatively affect the environment and especially our oceans. We must ask as customers and consumers of products for these practices to change. If we refuse to buy products that contain plastics or unnecessary amounts of plastic we send a message to these businesses that change is needed. It is not as simple as recycling the plastic (although extremely important) –we must change the way the products are made so there will be less harm to the environment in the future.

Living in Canada we are not always seeing the direct impact that plastic production and plastic pollution has on the environment, we must educate ourselves and others on the harm our overuse of plastic has all over the world. By reducing our plastic here in Canada, we can help reduce the need for plastic production! If we all continue to refuse plastic and create more environmentally sustainable products we will be working towards a better future globally. I am privileged to be able to help the environment and change my own habits to help reduce plastic use



200 grams of plastic

Before the challenge began I was working towards reducing my consumption. I already carried reusable bags and packed my own lunch and snacks when I was on the go. A change I was able to integrate into my life fairly easily was carrying my reusable coffee mug. The changes I had started to make had only scratched the surface, things became incredibly difficult once the challenge progressed.

Finding meat without styrofoam and plastic wrap was near impossible. I greatly reduced my meat consumption for the month, choosing eggs more often because of the paper carton. I could only find paper wrapped meat at small local stores and farmers markets. None of these options were particularly easy to access with my current schedule as they tend to have shorter opening hours as do butchers counters at big box grocers. Cheese was basically a no go, and I miss the variety of vegetables available to me. I’m a supporter of eating locally and seasonably, however, even local seasonal produce came shrink wrapped or in a clam shell.

Then there were the beauty products. I switched to solid shampoos and conditioners, I bought toothpowder in a jar from a health store, I ordered bamboo toothbrushes online and I reduced the amount of makeup I wear daily (I didn’t eliminate it, you can wrestle my plastic mascara wand out of my cold dead hands, try me). The variety of products available to indulge my vanity are incredibly limited, and honestly, not that great. It’s like companies put all their effort into products with a ton of packaging and marketing behind them…

Some highs for me included finding plastic free meats at a local shop that stayed open past five and expanding my recipe collection. While avoiding plastics I noticed that most condiments come in plastic jars, so if I wanted mustard or mayo on anything I had to be prepared to make my own.

Some lows included the state of my hair, it was flatter than day old Coca Cola and all of my styling products were contained in plastic so I avoided them for the sake of the challenge. My other major issue also involves hair. The past month was a hot one and I wanted to enjoy the sun and sand in a pair of shorts. The plastic free razors available were not only terrifying but also only available online. Having something like that shipped to me would certainly land me on some sort of heightened security surveillance list. So I chose to try an epilator. Oh. My. Sweet. God. Having summer ready shins should not involve a leather strap to bite down on and a bottle of tequila.

I am going to continue to explore the world of plastic free beauty, I’m sure there are products out there, or maybe some I can make myself, that will allow me to be kind to the environment but also allow me to be my brightly painted, big-haired self at the same time.

I will continue to carry my shopping bags and coffee mug and make my own food (lunches, condiments etc.). I have found new places to shop that have made shopping (and eating!) more fun so I will continue to frequent farmers markets.

Plastic is so pervasive. I didn’t even realize how much I used in the run of a day, even as a person who was actively trying to reduce plastic consumption pre-challenge. Things that looked to be packed without plastic had hidden or sneaky plastics; store clerks would put things in bags unprompted; alternatives to plastics were often few and far between. Even products that claimed to be environmentally friendly often had plastic attached somewhere (hello eco-toothbrush box with a plastic window, I’m looking at you!)

I wouldn’t say I’m surprised by my results. I had to introduce a number of changes, many of them were inconvenient to say the least. It should not be so difficult to avoid excess packaging. It’s frustrating that even with so many products available through so many avenues, that we as consumers have so few options.



523 grams of plastic

Some things this month were pretty easy like saying no to plastic bags at grocery stores and bringing my own with me. I also switched from single use coffee pods to reusable K-cups.

Something I noticed that was quickly inconvenient, I really like using pre-mixed salad kits but finding a salad that wasn’t over packaged was difficult. I could make my own but I like the convenience of buying an already assembled one.

Salads aside, it seemed almost impossible to leave the grocery store without at least one piece of plastic.

It was great this month seeing that Sobeys is making new plastic bags that are more environmentally friendly and introducing an in-store bag recycling program. I also noticing local restaurants like the Nook and Cranny are no longer offering plastic straws.

This month I became more aware of our plastic consumption as a problem. I was reading news articles about animals being found with plastic embedded into their skin from being entangled in it at an early stage in their life. It was a real low.

I started using reusable bags and reusable k-cups everyday. Saying no to bags at convenience and grocery stores was an easy change.

Still going to buy Randsland Super Salad Kits; they are delicious, healthy and convenient. Like Jay, I will continue to eat in to avoid the excess garbage that comes with take out meals.

I’ve been aware of our over use of plastic for some time but and also guilty of using it a lot out of convenience. We are reliant on plastic and can only do so much as an individual to avoid using it. The only real solution would be for corporations to look for an alternative solution to plastics, or to at least cut back on the amount of packaging and single use plastics they incorporate into their products.

Canadians throw away ½ kilogram of packaging everyday. This makes up one third, by weight, of our total waste and that feels excessive.


Thanks for following along with us during our plastic free challenge! We hope you have been inspired to change some of you own consumption behaviours. Big shout out to everyone who took on the challenge themselves, we hope it was eye-opening and at least a little fun!

We will be doing another challenge in the fall to see if we can build on our success. Check back in September for more details!

Month Without Plastic – Week 3 Wrap-up

The extreme heat wasn’t the only thing making our plastic free challengers sweat this Canada Day! Over a long weekend that is synonymous with red solo cups and back yard BBQs avoiding plastic cups, cutlery and the plastic accoutrement that so often accompanies celebrations, the plastic free challengers wondered how they would fare.


Armed with reusable straws and cutlery, glass dishes and determination, the challengers managed to make it through the long weekend sticking closely to their plastic free guns. A couple slip-ups were anticipated but the support from friends and family made having a plastic free Canada Day much less daunting. Telling those we were celebrating with made avoiding plastic easier.


It was easy to replace single use cups and plates with their reusable alternatives. We were careful not to use plastic wrap or baggies at our pot lucks and BBQs and we did our best to find plastic free alternatives to typical plastic wrapped goods.


We made it to the other end of the weekend largely plastic free. Congratulations to all the plastic challengers for making it to the last week of the challenge. Let’s check in with all of the challengers to hear about their long weekend without plastic…


Sharon: I really don’t have much to update, my weekend was spent at the cottage where I managed to avoid plastic almost entirely. However, I noticed that the grocery store put plastic wrap on top of the strawberries.  That seemed unnecessary.


Jillian: I have finally gotten into the habit of taking my coffee mug from my car and washing it at night to ensure I won’t end up without coffee the next morning!

I haven’t used plastic bags for anything that I bought on my last trip to the mall. I was impressed by many restaurants using paper-based takeout containers instead of plastic or Styrofoam.

I recently went to see a play in Charlottetown and they only had plastic options for drinks you could purchase, and they made everyone use a lid and straw if you took them into the theatre. I have to give props to my mom who actually thought ahead and brought her own water bottle and they had a refill station in the lobby!


Jay: Made an impromptu trip to the drugstore, when I wasn’t looking, the clerk put 5 items in 2 bags.  I put my sandwiches in waxed paper instead of plastic wrap, so I was able to cut down on my lunchtime plastic this way


Jake: The long weekend was fairly plastic free for me. I was away at a friend’s house. I couldn’t ask them to stop using plastic, so the plastic used was on them, I avoided what I could. Over the weekend I drank mostly beer which was in cans and are recyclable. I celebrated my birthday over the weekend and a couple of my birthday presents were wrapped in or came packaged in plastic, so I’ve had to set that aside.


Rose: We had a surprise retirement party for my mother this weekend. Avoiding plastic wasn’t too bad during the party, however I was given a drink in a plastic cup. I carried the cup with me for the entire long weekend and I am still using it as my bedside nighttime water glass, so at least I am making good use of my plastic slip up.

Other than my solo cup, I was able to avoid plastic for the bulk of the weekend, the only other item I accidentally picked up was a plastic bag at a shop while I wasn’t paying attention.


On to the final week! Check back next week to see the results of our plastic free challenge.

Happy Canada Day!

A Month Without Plastic- Week 2 Wrap-Up

Another week has come and gone, but plastic is forever. Our plastic free challengers have done their best to avoid plastic in it’s many forms however, becoming more aware of how pervasive plastic is in our day to day lives is a blessing and a curse.

Actively avoiding plastic has created an environment of awareness. There is plastic that is easy to see, it’s everywhere and its obvious. But then there are the hidden plastics, the plastics that are harder to identify and excessive packing, often an afterthought. This week some our challengers discovered the joys of hidden plastic packaging and excessive packaging.

Packaging has presented a challenge to our plastic free team. We have had to change what and where we purchase and have had to stop using some products all together because plastic free alternatives aren’t available.

Finding cucumbers without plastic seems near impossible. If you want a salad your lettuce options are limited to romaine and iceberg. Think you will buy cherries, grapes or any other kind of small fruit? Think again.

Food packaging has become over the top. Everything is wrapped in plastic, put on a tray and bagged. Even when trying to make responsible choices, avoiding all the packaging is difficult. Butcher counters are often unmanned in the evenings so buying plastic free meat is a hopeless venture. Farmers markets are closed Monday to Friday so finding plastic free fruit and veg is difficult and for some items, impossible.

Then there’s the issue of hidden plastic in seemingly plastic free packaged products. One challenger this week purchased compostable coffee pods, only to find that inside the recyclable paper box, each pod was individually wrapped in plastic. Another bought a cured meat from a local shop that was wrapped in paper, when she got home and removed the paper, the product inside was vacuumed sealed in, you guessed it, plastic. Even when the attempt is made to buy plastic free products often there’s hidden packaging involved.

Excessive packaging doesn’t stop with food. Non-food items often come in boxes filled with foam peanuts, styrofoam and other harmful plastic packing products. Even items meant to reduce single use plastics, like plastic free compostable toothbrushes, were shipped inside plastic envelopes.


Let’s check in with our challengers and see how week two has treated them…



My biggest challenge last week wasn’t at the grocery store.  I bought a few items at Canadian Tire and the packaging was excessive.  Along with cardboard, the item were packaged in foam and plastic.  I am starting to pay more attention to all packaging, not just plastic.  I am also paying more attention to all waste.  I am amazed at how much waste we create even when trying not to do so.
This is harder than I thought it would be.


The revelations I had last week about beauty without plastic became the bane of my plastic free existence this week. Finding solid shampoos, conditioners and face cleanser was easy enough (thank you LUSH!) but items like my toothbrush and make up are stumbling points. I have found some items like lip balm and bronzer in metal tins but there doesn’t seem to be an easy alternative to mascara (my favourite!) or any variety in plastic free lipsticks. Even just trying to shave became an ordeal when I had to decide between using plastic razors or turning into Sweeny Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
I had success finding compostable tooth brushes, even if they did come covered in plastic packaging.
As this month goes on I’m finding more and more plastic in my everyday life and so much of it is hard to avoid. Why are plastic free options so difficult to access? Why aren’t alternatives readily available, or even available at all?


I have been using reusable grocery bags when going shopping. Buying beverages in cans and glass bottles instead of plastic. Saying no to bags when I am only buying one item at a time.
My greatest challenge has been cutting out plastic packaging all together when buying products, if I was going to do this I would have to change my whole diet.
I good story from my week happened when I was in Sobeys and noticed that they had two different single use grocery bags and when I asked about them I was told they switched out their old ones for “environmentally responsible” single use bags that use 30% less plastic.
The most excessive packing I have seen lately is the packing used for seaweed snacks. Three separate packages inside a package, with plastic trays inside the individual packages.



I didn’t use any plastic bags this week!! I also was able to purchase storage supplies second hand; cheaper for me and better for the environment! I also tried out my first paper straws. 🙂
Purchasing any food products (especially anything frozen) has been a real challenge! From not knowing what type of packaging is below a cardboard box (surprise it’s probably plastic) to anything that is individually wrapped. Restaurants are still a challenge but I’ve learned the Nook and Cranny, in Truro, is going straw-less.
The craziest packaging I’ve come across was brought to my attention by my mom, who is now on the look out for better alternatives to plastic. (Last week she bought paper straws!)
This week she purchased 100% “compostable” coffee pods. The thing is, they ALL come individually wrapped in plastic! I think the worst part of this is that they don’t tell you on the outside packaging of cardboard that they come wrapped in plastic so the person thinks they are doing a great thing for the environment when in reality they have been tricked into buying a product that is not environmentally friendly at all.


Check back next week to find out how our challengers are doing!