Whale Watch Naturalist Programs

Cabrillo Whalewatch/Los Angeles Chapter

The Cabrillo Whalewatch is a joint partnership program between the Los Angeles chapter of the American Cetacean Society and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (San Pedro, CA) to train and prepare whale enthusiasts to serve as volunteer naturalists aboard whale watching cruises from January through March to educate the public about the whales, dolphins, and other marine wildlife that ply the waters off the coast of southern California.

Beginning in early October, volunteer Whalewatch naturalists meet every Tuesday from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. in the John M. Olguin Auditorium of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. Classes continue until the end of March, with the goal of preparing naturalists in advance of the annual migration of the Eastern Pacific gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), as these magnificent animals travel between feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas and mating and calving lagoons in Baja California, Mexico.

© David Anderson/dolphinsafari.com

Lectures and presentations by experts in southern California’s marine fauna are highly informative, engaging, and even entertaining! A sample list of topics include: introduction to the natural history of gray whales, killer whales and dolphins of southern California, pinnipeds, birds you may encounter during a whale watch, history of whale watching, and more!

The program is free and open to individuals 18 years of age and older. To enroll in the 2011 program, simply attend the first meeting on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011, or attend one of the following two meetings on October 11th or October 18th.

© Alisa Schulman-Janiger

For more information on the program and how you can become a certified naturalist through the Cabrillo Whalewatch program, please call: 310-548-8397 or the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium volunteer opportunity page.

The ACS Los Angeles Chapter Monthly Speaker Series is also held at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium on the last Tuesday of the month, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. These fascinating programs are free and open to the public.


 Orange County Chapter Naturalist Program 

Since 1975, the ACS-Orange County Chapter has had an active Whale Watch Naturalist Program focusing on the species and habitats of Orange County. The course consists of lectures, mentoring and hands-on learning, both in the classroom and aboard whale-watch boats. Topics include gray, blue, fin, minke and humpback whales; common, bottlenose, Risso’s and Pacific white-sided dolphins; orcas; and California sea lions. The class also covers boat etiquette and manners, so Naturalists can be ready to make a good impression on behalf of ACS and the OC Chapter.

Upon graduation, ACS-OC Naturalists are certified to represent ACS-OC as a volunteer on whale-watch boats, at schools and at other venues. A scientific background is not required to enroll — just a sincere interest in the subject and a desire to learn the material and serve as a positive and enthusiastic ambassador for ACS-OC and the whales.

There is a fee for the class, and non-members are required to purchase a one-year student ACS membership before the first session. The membership must be kept current at the going rate to keep the Naturalist certification.

The class schedule, fees and other information can be found on the ACS-OC website. The class tends to fill up quickly, so don’t delay!

Oregon Chapter Naturalist Program

ACS’s Oregon Chapter conducts a naturalist training program once a year. Graduates of the program become a ACS Certified Oregon Marine Naturalists, and are qualified to represent the ACS Oregon Chapter at whale watches, schools and other events. The program includes education about Oregon’s marine ecosystem, field identification and interpretation techniques. Topics include marine mammals, sea birds and shore birds, tide pools and whale watch vessel etiquette.

There is a fee for the course and materials. An ACS membership is required, and it must be kept current to maintain certification. Class size is limited. There is an attendance policy for the course and students will give oral presentations as well as pass a written exam. For more information, email the chapter at [email protected].