On Friday, October 5th, 2023, the Environment Society of Oman celebrated the achievement of four early-career Omani scientists who completed a year-long long capacity building programme on cetacean research and conservation. The programme, previously funded by HSBC Oman and now by Sohar International Bank, started in September 2022 with a series of classroom style components, delivered through a combination of online and in-person elements including lectures, questions and answers and group exercises. Half-day long modules focused on topics including general cetacean biology and ecology, cetaceans in Oman, cetacean research methodology, protocols for boat-based research in Oman, and a module titled ‘beyond research – engaging stakeholders in conservation’.
Participants also took part in boat-based surveys in the Muscat area and the Gulf of Masirah, where they had a chance to complement their classroom learning with hands-on experience in data collection protocols, photo-identification, data downloading and archiving, and mapping and data analysis. On Thursday, October 5th, participants presented the results of their final projects, which required them to apply their experience in a very practical way. Final projects included the drafting and design of a ‘glossy’ survey report for funders, geospatial analysis of the November 2022 Gulf of Masirah survey data, the design of a month-long social media campaign to raise awareness of cetaceans and their conservation needs in Oman, and the design and implementation of a systematic cetacean survey in Musandam.
All four candidates did an excellent job of presenting their project results to ESO management and the sponsor. The programme will continue with some more Muscat-based survey training. It will be great to see what this inspiring new generation of cetacean scientists and advocates do next.