EP10 – Ted Cheeseman – Photographing whales to tell their story – for fun + science – with happywhale.com

Ted Cheeseman is the founder of happywhale.com, a project that aims to photo identify the world’s whales through Citizen Science and as such, better understand these mysterious creatures, both for fun and scientific purposes. 

In just a few short years happywhale.com has become one of the greatest contributors to whale science both in the volume of whale identification images but also, in understanding their migration patterns. 

Furthermore, Ted is one of the founding members of the Polar Citizen Science Collective – an organization that facilitates meaningful data contributions of regular travelers when they visit the polar regions. This includes submissions to happywhale.com through hobby photography, but also collecting sea samples that look at ocean salinity, phytoplankton density, and much more.

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Check out this episode to learn more about how one man’s passion for animals and nature led to his involvement in the inception of these truly groundbreaking programs that are changing the landscape of polar scientific research.


3:10 – Why whales?

4:30 – How we hunted whales down to near biological extinction and now they’re recovering

6:15 – Ted’s most memorable whale encounter, when he was actually lifted by a whale

12:25 – The process by which individual whales are identified by their fluke

15:00 – How a photo of a whale Ted took outside of Deception Island and a visit to Palmer Station sparked an idea that turned into a movement

17:10 – happywhale.com is born with a combo of a scrappy passion for animals and Silicon valley smarts

17:50 – New image recognition technology allows happywhale.com to accurately match most whale photos

19: 30 – What happywhale.com does to get regular people on board to help identify whales (make it easy, make it rewarding)

23:45 – The importance of how feeling connected to individual animals motivates us to take care of them better

25:20 – The biggest threat to whales right now

26:10 – Happywhale.com as a tool for lifetime awareness

26:45 – Ted tells us about the inception of the Polar Citizen Science Collective

34:00 – Where Ted sees the Citizen Science program in the polar regions 5 years from now

37:00 – The world’s whale population has never been fully assessed and happywhale.com is the single largest data contributor to scientific organizations

38:10 – How a greater understanding of whales and migration patterns helps inform policies for things like vessel speeds in certain high-density areas

39:40 – Houston, we have a Citizen Science app!

46:10 – The potential (massive) impacts of happywhale.com and the Citizen Science Collective, proving that individuals can make a difference



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The Polar Citizen Science Collective


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