Amateur naturalists can become proficient in their chosen field. Here are some ways to learn more about whales.
Read About Whales
Visit libraries and borrow everything about whales. Concentrate initially on species that are likely to be seen, their identification, distribution and behaviour.
Go Whale Watching
Reading about whales is nothing compared to watching them in the wild. A poor second to this is seeing them in aquaria or the zoo – but at least this allows very close study. Exactly what opportunities there are for seeing live whales depends very much on your location, and those living near the sea have a distinct advantage. If there are no opportunities nearby consider ‘influencing’ the choice of family holiday.
Some equipment is essential for whale watching, and a few other things are very useful. Binoculars are probably the first requirement, with a good field guide coming next. Hydrophones are a luxury, but anyone seriously interested in whales who can afford it should consider this piece of equipment, along with something to allow recordings to be made. It is difficult to use binoculars and a camera at the same time – but binoculars with a built-in camera do exist. They are neither as good as binoculars on their own, nor as a camera – but they do allow whale watchers to look and photograph at the same time.
Surf the Web
Everyone reading this article has access to the web, and locating websites and blogs about whales is a good way of seeing what is going on around the world. Try searching for exactly what you want (using the exact question you would ask a human being), and if this is not productive then simplify the question until you hit something relevant. Normally there will be forward links, and surfing away will often stumble upon ‘gems’. Do not forget to bookmark interesting stuff – it is sometimes impossible to find it again later if you do not.
Amateurs and Professionals
Many great naturalists were essentially self-taught, and in a sense all researchers are finding out for themselves. Lack of any formal training in marine biology does not mean that an amateur cannot become an expert. It is true that those with formal qualifications will initially seem more credible, but self-taught individuals can end up knowing as much as, or more than, the ‘experts’. Becoming a whale expert adds whole new dimensions to the experience of watching whales in the wild.