Gale McCullough shares quite a whale of a tale

“There’s Don Quixote, there’s Fissure, there’s Spoon, Equis and Abraxis,” Gale McCullough ticks off, turning her head towards the ocean as though she might catch a glimpse of one of the whales she’s been tracking pass by. It’s a brisk day and we’re interviewing her on the deck of the Waterfront Restaurant in Camden, Maine.

“My mind is out there just about half the time and it’s following these individuals, sometimes with great sadness and worry. So my involvement with the ocean is very personal, because it’s with them.” McCullough’s concerns about their welfare range from oil spills to noise to pollution and plastic. “I mean what’s not to worry about. And knowing individual animals makes this all mean a whole lot more.”

McCullough, a former nursery school teacher and old-fashioned naturalist, recently discovered a whale that had journeyed an unprecedented 6,000 miles from Brazil to Madagascar. The technology she used? Flickr. Through the photo sharing website where people post their “I-went-on-a-whale-watch-trip” photos, she found matching photos of the whales.

“I think scientists are going to have to make room for devoted people,” she said regarding the increasingly important role of citizen scientists. “If we can do that, ordinary people will know more about the scientific process and how carefully you have to look, but also there are so many eyes that will be out there that aren’t there now.”

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