Research Scientist, Vancouver Aquarium
Listening to Belugas
From the Vancouver Aquarium to Hudson Bay, from the Canadian Arctic to the St. Lawrence Estuary, researcher Valeria Vergara has listened to the communication sounds made by belugas in captivity and in the wild.
Valeria Vergara is primarily interested in the animals’ cognitive, perceptual and communicative abilities. She directs and coordinates studies on belugas and other Arctic marine mammals through the research programs of the Vancouver Aquarium.
Her encounter with belugas began at the Vancouver Aquarium. As part of her PhD with the University of British Columbia, she studied acoustic communication and learning of vocalizations in this species in captivity. She was the first to document the development of their vocal range and identify contact calls critical for maintaining cohesion within the group. She then compared these results in the wild, notably with the populations of the Nelson River Estuary in Hudson Bay, in Cunningham Inlet on Somerset Island (Nunavut), and now in the St. Lawrence Estuary. These studies allow her to identify the issues that belugas, whose sense of hearing is essential, are encountering in an increasingly noisy environment.
To learn more:
On Whales Online:
Mom, Can You Hear Me? – Continuation (With the Belugas: Week of July 18, 2016)
In the media: Crying to be Heard (New Scientist, May 2016)
Last update: August 2016