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A Spaniard in Denmark

Sara Ortiz is one-of-a-kind lady. She is attracted to animals who live in three-dimensional environments. She works with birds and cetaceans!

From Madrid, where she is from, Sara moved to Cadiz in southern Spain to earn a Bachelor in Marine Science. In her interest to study marine mammals, she abandoned the warm coastal areas of Cadiz and moved to cold Denmark (it’s not that cold!) and earned a Master in Biology from the University of Southern Denmark. Soon after her arrival Sara began helping harbour porpoises researchers at the Fjord and Baelt facilities in Kerteminde and fell in love them. Who wouldn’t?!

“.. they seem to have a secret life that we are not aware of…

Porpoises are underappreciated. Sara agrees with me on this one. She especially likes that they “seem to have a secret life that we are not aware of… They are common but try to keep a low profile”. And oh, yes. That makes them even cuter, doesn’t it?

I was lucky enough to join her in the field in 2020. Sara carried out pioneering work studying the behaviour of wild harbour porpoises off Kerteminde using drones. Porpoises are close to shore and you just need to wait for them to show up and send the drone over. It is the perfect place.

The images she has been able to capture are mesmerising and I can’t thank her enough for sharing some of them with me!

Flying the drone – Måle, Denmark

The work she and others at the University of Southern Denmark and Fjord and Baelt are doing will help us understand what porpoises do at sea in a way that was not possible before.

Videos provide unique insight into their lives. If we can combine these images with acoustic data, we’ll also learn about their communication, something we know almost nothing about.

I asked Sara what I want to know from everyone working with porpoises. What is the one thing she would like people to know about porpoises?

“Expect the unexpected… Harbour porpoises are so difficult to understand! I have watched videos of their behaviour for hours and hours, day after day. I cannot draw many conclusions… Some days they seem social, some days they do not. Some days they are shy and skittish, other days you can see them playing with jellyfish or using boats to catch fish.”

Sara is currently a PhD student at the Max Plank Institute of Ornithology, University of Munich studying cognitions in birds. But she hasn’t abandoned the porpoises!! her growing list of published work is here. Don’t miss anything and follow her on Instagram at Sarinade_delfin

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