Background

The Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) is a registered Canadian charity dedicated to promoting conservation and understanding of marine ecosystems through scientific research, environmental education, and marine wildlife response. We are based on northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia and incorporated in 2010. 

MERS formed in order to bring together existing marine research and education projects as well as to provide a platform from which to conduct further work. 

Our team is comprised of marine biologists and educators highly dedicated to marine conservation. While based on Canada's west coast, team members have worked in many countries and oceans. Click here for background on our team. 

We are a small organization doing big work. 

Our research is focused on investigating Humpback and Minke Whales in British Columbia but has also included work to understand and reduce risks to additional marine mammals in BC and in other parts of the world. MERS educational activities have included many presentations, lectures, and programs aimed at a wide audience. 

What we do: 

  • Coast-wide education to reduce threats to whales – includes signage, resource development, media engagement, presentations, and Marine Mammal Naturalist Courses.
  • Photo identification, population, and behaviour studies - Minke and Humpback Whales.
  • Feeding strategy studies – Humpback Whales.
  • Marine mammal response and rescue.
  • Studies to better understand the threat of entanglement to marine mammals.
  • Humpback Whale research area is from upper Strait of Georgia to Bella Bella.
  • Collaborating to update the British Columbia catalogue for Humpbacks.
  • Education to raise awareness of Leatherback Turtles off the coast of BC.

How it is achieved:

  • Highly reliant on community; volunteer efforts of many, including our Directors, data contributors, and data analysts; and donors / sponsors.
  • How to be part of the effort:                
    • Follow MERS on social media and share messaging to reduce threats to whales (and boaters);
    • Contribute data and sightings;
    • Sponsor a Humpback Whale;
    • Sponsor “See a Blow? Go Slow!” signs and/or help them be positioned;
    • Provide donations or auction items;
    •  Sign up for a MERS Marine Mammal Naturalist Course.
  • Current grant funding
    • Canada Summer Jobs;
    • DFO - Marine Mammal Response Program and Habitat Stewardship Program; and 

    • NIMMSA Conservation Fund.


Highlights of work achieved by MERS in 2018 (note: summary of work in 2019 will be provided by the end of December 2019):

  • 2,000+ data entries for sightings of Humpbacks;
  • 170 hours spent monitoring whales during commercial fisheries in case there is an entanglement and in order to better understand the risk;
  • 30 additional “See a Blow? Go Slow!” signs for strategic positioning on British Columbia’s coast (many more signs are needed);
  • 22 presentations on our research and reducing risks to whales, reaching more than 1,550 people from coastal BC; 
  • Publishing our research on trap-feeding in Marine Mammal Science;
  • Publishing on Minke Whale acoustics in Bioacoustics - the International Journal of Animal Sound and its Recording;
  • Training more than 95 people at two Marine Naturalist Workshops to enhance the calibre of conservation information provided on our coast;
  • Continued work to understand the proportion of humpbacks that have been entangled in BC, in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada;
  • Collaborating with colleagues also documenting Humpbacks off the coast of British Columbia to update the BC province-wide Humpback catalogue; and
  • Co-hosting an entanglement workshop with the Coastal Ocean Research Institute /Ocean Wise, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Sealife Response Rehabilitation and Research to help participants learn how to report, document and help assess entangled whales.

All photos on this site provided by and © Jared Towers, Christie McMillan, Jackie Hildering, and Heidi Krajewsky, unless otherwise indicated. 

Photos are not to be used without permission.

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