Have you ever wondered what happens to your sightings once you fill out an online webform, call our toll free number (1 866 I SAW ONE) or send in your logbook pages? Each sighting relies on a collection of dedicated individuals to make the journey from ocean to database. Indeed, the BCCSN is truly a joint effort between observers out on the water and a team of staff and volunteers based at the Vancouver Aquarium.

We appreciate that the core of this program is the network of observers, the 2000 plus individuals who take the time to submit their sightings and participate in the BCCSN. Our observers are diverse, from ferry captains, fishermen to coastal citizens and beyond! See profiles on some of our observers here and here. In a small effort to recognize all your efforts as observers, we try to respond to each sighting we receive in a timely manner—however, we do receive thousands of sightings every year so sometimes it takes a little longer than we’d like.

Each sighting received by the BCCSN is treated the same way. After a sighting is made and submitted, it is received, reviewed and tallied for our records by BCCSN staff before being turned over to our dedicated group of volunteers. The BCCSN is lucky to currently have 18 volunteers who graciously donate their time to help out the program. Indeed, the BCCSN would be nowhere without our volunteers.

Our volunteers go through extensive training before they begin their duties in our lab. Each volunteer is taught how to use the database where the sightings are stored and the marine navigation software that is used to check the locational accuracy of every sighting. As a result of checking each sighting’s latitude and longitude, our volunteers quickly become familiar with BC’s coastal geography. Although it doesn’t beat being out on a boat looking for cetaceans and sea turtles, it is fascinating work to see what species are being observed in the different coastal regions of our province. With the location confirmed, the details of each sighting are then entered into our database to complete the journey from water to computer.

At the end of each year, BCCSN staff tally up the total number of sightings received. As a reward to our frequent observers, we provide maps to our top twenty observers illustrating their sightings for the year. Given the sheer number of sightings we receive in a given year, it often takes us until late spring to get all the previous year’s sightings into our database. If you’re a top twenty observer, you can expect your map around late March.

Once sightings have been entered into the database they are available to be used as baseline data in conservation and research projects. In 2009, our sightings played a key role in 10 different conservation and research projects. We look forward to contributing to more projects in the coming months as well as conducting some analyses of our own.

The BCCSN database is currently sitting at nearly 46,000 sightings, which is truly a testament to all the hard work our volunteers have put in over the years and to the dedication of all our observers. To keep the BCCSN going strong, please continue to report all your sightings of cetaceans or sea turtles to the BC Cetaceans Sightings Network.

BCCSN volunteer Kimberly Irwin hard at work entering sightings into our database.