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Sea Goddess Naturalists

Introducing the Sea Goddess Naturalists

Sea Goddess Naturalist, Samantha Mendez

Sea Goddess Naturalist, Samantha Mendez

Samantha Mendez

Samantha is the head naturalist for Sea Goddess Whale Watching and received her B.S in marine science from California State University Monterey Bay in 2016. Most of her undergraduate work consisted of underwater ROV analysis and research on the marine protected areas of the Monterey Bay.

Q: What’s the best part about your job?
A: The best part of my job is being able to share what I’m passionate about with our customers. I never get tired of seeing everyone’s reaction when they see a whale for the first time. It’s one thing to watch a whale on TV or see pictures, but it’s completely different to see these giants right in front of you.

Q: What’s your favorite animal or behavior to see in the water?
A: Humpback whales are by far my favorite! They’re such complicated, intelligent creatures that never cease to surprise us with their different behaviors. Watching a humpback breach takes my breath away every time.

Q: What, in your opinion, is the best time of year to go whale watching in the Monterey Bay? 
A: Definitely late May though late August. That’s when we have the highest concentration of Humpbacks along with others like the blue whale, killer whale, fin whale, and multiple dolphin species! From early spring to late summer we experience an upwelling event that creates nutrient rich water which sustains large numbers small schooling fish and krill. This is why we’re such a hot spot for marine mammals! That being said, we can still expect to see humpbacks through early November.

Q: What makes watching trips on the Sea Goddess so unique?
A: A half mile out from Moss Landing, the Monterey Canyon begins. This canyon extends around 95 miles, and is the largest submarine canyon off of North America’s west coast.

This gives us a huge advantage for whale watching, upwelling occurs along the canyon walls providing tons of food for our whales right in our own backyard!

Also, our boat is built for whale watching, meaning we have plenty of space on either side of the cabin for our customers to move around. So if a whale surfaces on one side of the boat, customers won’t have to miss out on the view because there isn’t enough room.

Q: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about the Monterey Bay?
A: When I moved here for college, I had no idea we had killer whales (orcas) that came in and out of the bay to feed. I always thought I would have to travel further up north to have any shot at seeing them. It’s been the highlight of my time at Sea Goddess to observe these creatures in the wild!

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Sea Goddess Naturalist Natalie Yingling

Natalie Yingling

Natalie is a current graduate student at Moss Landing Marine Lab in the Biological Oceanography Lab. She received her bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University, majoring in Marine Science with a concentration in Biological Oceanography and a minor in Zoology. Natalie has been with Sea Goddess Whale Watching since May of 2016.

Q: What’s the best part about your job?
A: I think the best part of my job is being able to teach people about marine science and why it is an important topic of research. I believe that everyone, at some point in their life, needs to experience being on a boat out at sea and seeing these animals in their natural environment.

Actually watching the whales and other marine mammals makes it easy to understand why marine conservation and management are important in our world.

Q: What’s your favorite animal or behavior to see in the water?
A: I think breaching or lunge feeding are the coolest and most exciting parts of whale watching. Both can occur unexpectedly on our trips and are always a real crowd-pleaser!

Q: What do you think is the best time of year to go whale watching in Monterey Bay?
A: I would have to say our summer months are the most active for whale watching. It all originates with the food-chain starting phenomenon known as upwelling that occurs in the late spring and summer. Upwelling in the area fuels biological activity by fertilizing the waters and creating a suitable habitat for various bait such as anchovies, sardines, krill, and squid. This is why Monterey Bay is considered to be a primary feeding ground for various hungry marine mammals and birds!

Q: What makes whale watching trips on the Sea Goddess unique?
A: Lucky for us, the Sea Goddess departs from the Moss Landing harbor. Moss Landing is located in the heart of Monterey Bay, where less than a football field away lies the beginning of the Monterey Canyon. The Monterey Canyon is the largest submarine canyon on the western coast of North America, giving us access to deep waters near the shore. Thanks to the canyon, we have upwelling that occurs right off Moss Landing meaning we often see whales not far from the harbor.

Q: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about the Monterey Bay?
A: Since Monterey Bay is a National Marine Sanctuary we have an abundant amount of diversity in marine mammals, fishes, turtles, shorebirds and seabirds. Many of these organisms make long and difficult migrations in order to come and feed in Monterey Bay. It’s one of the most productive ocean ecosystems and offers some of the best wildlife viewing in the world.