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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