A researcher from the Vancouver Aquarium will be heading to the Arctic next week to study the chatty cetaceans in the summer home where they raise their young.
Behavioural ecologist Valeria (vul-ARIA') Vergara is going to Cunningham Inlet, on Summerset Island about 800 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, to study the sounds belugas make in the wild.
Vergara says the area has seen many changes due to climate change and she wants to establish a baseline for beluga communications before — as anticipated — global warming opens the Northern Passage to shipping.
Since the birth of the calf Tuvaq (TOO'-vock) in 2002, aquarium staff have been studying the vocal calls between beluga cows and their young.
The research trip comes as the non-profit aquarium is under renewed pressure to stop keeping belugas and dolphins in captivity — including a call from Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson to end the practice.
But Vergara says the research at the aquarium helps scientists understand the behaviour of belugas in the wild and how environmental changes are affecting them.