For the Redmond Reporter
Whale Watchers is an app to help the threatened Orca populations and is being developed by Runjeet Narula, Ateeq Ramlan, and Laavan Suresh who are rising seniors at Redmond and Tesla Stem High School. Whales use echolocation to hunt and communicate with their pod. Noise pollution harms whales by interfering with their echolocation and causes internal bleeding. Additionally, it is very common for whales to be hit by boats. Whales are a keystone species and contribute to lowering climate change so it is very important to preserve them. However, current solutions require changing laws or regulations which can take years, meanwhile the whale populations continue to decline rapidly.
Whale Watchers is an interactive app that protects whale populations from noise pollution and collisions caused by boats. The app has users log whale sightings near them which is then displayed on a shared Google Map screen. These sightings are marked with a blue dot and a blue circle which represents the whale’s hearing range. Multiple sightings in an area will create a red hotspot which represents high activity. Captains of commercial boats can use these sightings to plan or change their routes to avoid causing noise pollution or hitting whales. There is also a “Report Violation” button for users to report illegal activity.
Runjeet, Ateeq, and Laavan submitted their prototype app to the US Innovator Challenge and placed in the top 10; they will be representing the US in the Global Innovator Challenge this fall! “Orcas are central to the Pacific Northwest so it is important that we do all that we can to protect them,” says Runjeet. “Once we finish developing the app, we hope that the Department of Fish and Wildlife can utilize it to further help the Orcas.”