Gotham Whale’s Commitment to Education

By: Dr. Merryl Kafka, originally published in The Gam, October 2022

Gotham Whale was spotted again in Long Island at Hofstra University during the week of July 8, participating in the Annual Conference of the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA), hosted by the NYS Marine Educators Chapter (NYSMEA). This was the first time a NMEA conference was offered as a dual experience, with a virtual participation of 87 “Zoomers” and an in-person registration of 147. Teachers from all around NYC, the eastern coastline, and as far away as Hawaii and South Korea were in attendance.

GW Director of Education Dr. Merryl Kafka at NMEA conference

On hand were several members of the Gotham Whale Team: Dr. Merryl Kafka, GW’s Director of Education, and Alexander Mildener, a Gotham Whale volunteer since his high school days who is now completing his Master’s Degree studying Beluga whale self-recognition at Hunter College. Alex has a rich background in whale biology, behavior, and conservation issues, and enriched the participants with his knowledge and enthusiasm in the world of whales.

Gotham Whale long-time volunteer Alexander Mildener at NMEA conference

A proposed highlight of the NMEA conference was a scheduled whale watching excursion onboard the Atlantic Pearl. But unfortunately due to high winds, the trip was canceled. Dr. Joy Reidenberg, GW’s scientific advisor, saved the day with an alternative experience without the risk of motion sickness!

NYSMEA group at SPLASH Environmental Center

Dr. Reidenberg arrived at SPLASH, an environmental Center in Freeport, NY, and unloaded her small car with over a dozen whale bones of all sorts: ribs, vertebrae, teeth, and baleen from several different species. She engaged the attendees with a fabulous two-hour PowerPoint presentation on whales, with unique, once-in-a-life-time captured photographs.

Dr Reidenberg is one of the country’s—if not the world’s—leading experts on giant animals. You may have seen her on the BBC production Inside Nature’s Giants, where she is seen in a hazmat suit engulfed in a deceased whale body that was stranded on the beach, identifying the anatomy of these gentle giants. When not whale watching with GW, or filming specials on animal behavior, Joy is teaching comparative anatomy at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan. We were all so happy that she was awhaleable!

Posted by Paul Sieswerda