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New app lets users help scientists save starving orcas

J2 (Photo: Mike Ellifrit)

There’s a new app that lets you eavesdrop on orcas while at the same time help scientists with their research to save the dwindling population.

The app Orcasound lets users listen to sounds picked up by hydrophones, underwater microphones, used to locate whales. Users become engaged citizen scientists, reporting whenever they hear something.

The Orca Network just installed a new underwater microphone on the west side of Whidbey Island to monitor whale activity.

“We all have this innate curiosity about what are they saying,” said Scott Veirs, coordinator for the Orca Network. They have a wide range of sound they make -- from calls to clicks to whistles.”

“We can hear killer whales 10 kilometers away with this, so that’s like 6 miles,” he added.

In the fall and early winter, Orcas spend a lot of their time feeding on salmon in Puget Sound.

Scientists say the Orca population is struggling for a variety of reasons, including the decreasing Chinook population and the noise in the water, which makes it harder for whales who use sound to navigate and find food.

Scientists say they hope people will enjoy listening to the animals, but will also do something to protect them.

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