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Webcam whale research buoyed by viewers around the world

HELENA, Mont. – Canadian researchers are turning to the internet to learn about the social behaviour of thousands of beluga whales that migrate to Hudson Bay every year.

Stephen Petersen of Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo and his wife, biologist Meg Hainstock, are encouraging viewers of a live underwater webcam to take snapshots of the whales as they swim around and nuzzle the camera.

Those pictures are being uploaded to a database that will help the researchers understand the whales’ social structure by learning how many males and females are in each whale pod, and how they use the estuaries where they gather.

The webcam was launched last year by Bozeman-based Polar Bears International and Explore.org, a project of the Annenberg Foundation. The cameras are attached to a boat that travels in an estuary near Churchill, Manitoba.