Volunteer

We appreciate your interest in our shore-based beluga whale monitoring program. Belugas are an essential part of the Cook Inlet ecosystem. Your participation in our monitoring efforts will provide researchers, managers, and the public with valuable information on beluga distribution, behavior, and habitat use in this region. As a volunteer, you’ll acquire knowledge about these animals and their conservation needs, participate in field monitoring, and contribute to collecting scientific data on beluga habitat use. Becoming an AKBMP community scientist is an excellent way to support Cook Inlet beluga whale conservation, all while enjoying your local ecosystem!

We strive to foster an inclusive environment where all people feel accepted in our volunteer program. Diversity strengthens and enriches our work. We welcome people of all backgrounds and identities, including race, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity, gender expression, faith/religion, age, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic background, and familial status. We want our volunteers to feel they can bring their authentic selves to our program, and we know that a diversity of voices, perspectives, and ideas is critical. We are constantly pushing to improve so, please reach out if you have any suggestions on how we can do better (alaskabmp@gmail.com).

Originally the word “citizen” was included in the term citizen science to differentiate data collectors from the general public and professionally trained scientists. The intention was not to describe the citizenship status of the volunteers participating in the data-collection initiative; however, we recognize that the use of this word is not inclusive. The Alaska Beluga Monitoring Program welcomes anyone who finds joy in belugas and wants to contribute to the conservation of the Cook Inlet population. Due to our ongoing work toward diversity, equity, and inclusion, we have transitioned from using “citizen science” to “community science.” Everyone is a valuable volunteer, no matter where you were born or how you came to Alaska. We value your contribution, and US citizenship is not a prerequisite for caring about the natural world. Additionally, our program is a communal experience that brings together Alaskan communities along the shores of Cook Inlet who are inspired and motivated to become better stewards for beluga whales. Community science better reflects how our program is successful through collaboration and teamwork.

WE HOST TWO MONITORING SEASONS Annually

Fall: mid-August through late November | Spring: mid-March through late May

HOW TO BECOME A BELUGA COMMUNITY SCIENTIST?
  • Step 1. Attend a volunteer orientation

    Orientations (60-90 minutes) are held virtually at the start of each monitoring season. We provide you with information on our monitoring activities and instructions on following our monitoring protocols and using our datasheets during orientation. Our monitoring protocol provides a standardized method for conducting shore-based beluga monitoring. Our program enables the systematic collection of field observations so that our data can be used to support the management and conservation of these animals. The orientation will be recorded and posted here for viewing anytime during our season. All participants must be at least 18 years of age unless accompanied by an adult guardian.

    *signup for our newsletter to get season updates

  • Step 2. Complete volunteer application and waiver

    Once you have completed the volunteer orientation, we will send you an email with the volunteer application and waiver. Both will need to be completed and emailed back to the coordinator before you can attend any monitoring sessions for further training. You will not have access to the session signup schedule until you complete both of these.

  • Step 3. In-person monitoring training

    You must signup for at least one monitoring session with a lead observer to get field training before monitoring on your own (preferable, you get trained when there are belugas present during a session). This way, we can make sure all of our volunteers are on the same page. You can signup for as many sessions with a lead observer as you want. We want you to feel confident and comfortable with our monitoring protocol.

  • You are ready to monitor!

    Once you complete steps 1 -3, you are ready to monitor yourself! You can find everything you need under the “Monitor” tab. If you would like more information on becoming an Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership (AKBMP) volunteer, please email us at alaskabmp@gmail.com.

WHAT DOES A BELUGA COMMUNITY SCIENTIST DO?
  • MONITOR

    We have a fall (August 15 – November 15) and spring (March through May) monitoring season where we have daily monitoring sessions. Each monitoring session lasts on average two hours and is scheduled around the tide for when belugas are known to be in the area. Volunteers can view and sign up to attend monitoring sessions on our AKBMP monitoring schedule, which will be available to volunteers after attending a monitoring orientation and submitting their volunteer forms. We ask that each volunteer commits to monitor a minimum of three sessions throughout the season (about a six-hour commitment in total); however, there is no maximum limit on how many sessions a volunteer may attend.

  • ENTRY

    Volunteers are expected to use the AKBMP datasheets to collect observations and submit their data on an online platform after their sessions. The datasheets and data entry process are straightforward, and we provide training opportunities so the volunteer feels comfortable. You will get extensive training from the volunteer orientation and the lead observer training sessions. We encourage our volunteers to take photos of the belugas during their sessions and submit them with their data if you like taking photographs.

  • STEWARDSHIP

    As a AKBMP beluga community scientist, you will learn about Cook Inlet belugas and their conservation needs. Participating in beluga monitoring will give you first-hand experience with these animals and their habitat. The information you collect will provide researchers, managers, and the public with valuable information about this endangered species.


OTHER WAYS TO GET INVOLVED:

If you are not interested in participating in our shore-based monitoring sessions, you can still help with Cook Inlet beluga conservation. When adventuring around Cook Inlet, it is common to see beluga whales. These sightings are valuable, and you can report them!

  • Not sure what information is important, click here to find out what to write down.

Every sighting is a valuable sighting when a species is endangered!


OUR MONITORING SITES:

Ship Creek

Co-hosted by NOAA Fisheries and Defenders of Wildlife. We monitor from the small boat launch.

Mile Marker 95.3 Pullout (on Seward Highway)

Hosted by Beluga Whale Alliance. The pullout is east of Bird Point.

Twentymile River

Hosted by Beluga Whale Alliance. We monitor on the westside of the river mouth.

The Point

This site is located at and hosted by the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center . We monitor from the gazebo and boardwalk where Placer River and Portage intersect.

Kenai River

Hosted by the Alaska Wildlife Alliance and Kenai Peninsula College. We monitor from Spur View Picnic Ground overlooking the mouth of the river.

Kasilof River

Hosted by the Alaska Wildlife Alliance and Kenai Peninsula College. We monitor from the Kasilof Beach Dipnetting location.


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