ECS, Mighty Ocean, Despot and Fish&Chips. The cetologists meet in Ireland.

The European Cetacean Society (ECS) was established in January 1987 and aims to promote and advance the scientific studies and conservation efforts of marine mammals as well as to gather and disseminate information about cetaceans to members of the Society and the public at large. The ECS is coordinated by a Council of 11 members and each year organizes an Annual Conferences in a European country.

Members of the ECS have gathered this year in Galway, Ireland, to attend one of the most intense conferences of the last years. 450 participants, 70 talks and 230 posters, a massive deployment of ideas, techniques and case studies in various forms and shapes to embody the theme “Communication: information and ideas worth sharing”.

The venue

Several workshops were organized, we had the chance to attend “Linking Science and Whale Watching”, “Tagging and Biopsy Sampling” and “Grampus griseus 200th Anniversary: Risso’s dolphins in the Contemporary World”. Three very different topics, we’ll tell you more about them in upcoming posts.

The conference started with Mairtin O’Connors playing “The Mighty Ocean”, an amazing instrumental Irish song composed especially for the ECS, followed by the first of three enlightening invited speakers.

Matthijs Schouten is a botanist and philosopher, he took us through environmental philosophy principles trying to help us understand what kind of relationships we do have with the natural world. Are we despots, stewards, partners or participants? Surrounded by statistics, models, maths and pure science, a breath of humanities has been really appreciated. The three of us were really struck by his talk, a dedicated post is in preparation.

Louis Herman has been studying dolphins and whales for 35 years, a pioneer cetologist in Hawaii where, back in the 70’s, he was told “there may be whales out there”. There were indeed. He provided contributions in the fields of dolphins perception, cognition and communication as well as humpback whales distribution and behavioural ecology off Hawaii.

Greg Donovan, 30 years studying cetacean behind him, is now the head of science of the International Whaling Commission. In his talk “Conservation Science: the ethics of communication” he reminded the audience about the importance of proper, targeted and honest communications, with respect, ethics and Guinnes (yes, the beer..he is Irish J) as recurring keywords.

70 presentations by fellow researchers illustrated results of studies from countless countries, on various species, different approaches for different research questions, new tools and techniques. The entire European cetacean cosmos was there, with all its nuances. Moreover, behind the scene, ECS always provides a perfect culture medium for informal exchanges, contacts and interesting encounters. Our poster was there, people stopped by and had a look, some getting in touch with us to find out more about our species.


Funny enough, the most intense ECS conference happened in the Irish sunniest week. Sunniest ever, probably. What a shame to be locked indoor while the weather outside was so sweet, but the high quality of the presentations given was worth the sacrifice.

We compliment the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and its partners and collaborators for the punctual organisation of the event and look forward to visiting Portugal for the ECS 2013.


Useful links:
ECS Conference 2012 –

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