Laura Gorodezky
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  • Analyzing Gray Whale Migration Data

    Note to Teachers

    Encourage students to figure out how to analyze today's data themselves, with as little input as possible. The initial moments of confusion will stimulate creative thinking, and different students are sure to come up with different ideas which can be shared later. Students should look for information that's collected during each whale-watch excursion. Such information can be quantified and compared over time.

    The following ideas might be suggested to students if they seem to need guidance:


    • How many different types of whale behavior were observed? Which are observed most frequently? The least frequently?
    • How long do gray whales hold their breath? What's the average time between breathing cycles? Does this average change if you look within age-groups? If so, do younger or older whales breath more frequently?
    • Count the total number of days during which the observations were made. What is the chance of seeing a gray whale on a given day? What's the average number of whales seen per day?
    • What can you say about the pace of migration past Santa Barbara between March 10th and April 21st? Does the pace change during this 6-week period? If so, how?
    • Did the age-groups of whales sighted change over this 6 week period?
    • Tally the TOTAL number of gray whales seen each day. (At the same time, record the age-category of each whale.) Graph the number of whales seen per day between March 10th and April 21st. If you don't see a daily trend, divide the data into weekly groupings. For example: Week 1 (March 10-16), Week 2 (March 17-23), Week 3 (March 24-30), etc.
    • How does this spring's migration compare to last year's? Click Here for Spring, 1996 Gray Whale Migration Data


    • Write a scientific paper to summarize the data. What conclusions can you draw about gray whale migration? What conclusions cannot be drawn? Why?
    • Write a news story or travel brochure that summarizes gray whale migration past Santa Barbara.
    • In what ways is writing a scientific summary different from writing a news article? In what ways are they the same?

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