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Salma Abdel-Raheem Uses GIS to Protect Whales

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

Meet Salma Abdel-Raheem

Marine Mammal Sighting Network Coordinator,

GIS and Data Analyst at the Whale Museum

This project: Analyzing location information from whale sightings

Salma Abdel-Raheem works to protect whales. She doesn’t defend them with swords or lasers. She uses science and maps. Her weapon is GIS, Geographic Information Systems.

Salma analyzes whale sightings that come from citizens or organizations who care about whales. Maybe they sighted a whale spout when it rose to breathe. Maybe they sighted a whale when it launched itself into the air. Or maybe a scientist was listening with an underwater microphone.

Salma uses the location of the sightings to visualize where the whales are. Using GIS software to make maps, she can analyze where they were seen. She can see where whales are most observed. If we know where the whales are, we can keep ships away or ask them to slow down in the area. We can ask people to give them space.

"I use science every day. I use technology every day. I use math every day. And I use art when I make maps. Successful scientists are a little bit of everything."

Getting her hands dirty to study ocean ecology

Salma loves learning about ocean ecology. She even taught herself how to code so she could use GIS.

One of the biggest obstacles Salma had to overcome was learning English. She was child when her family immigrated here from Egypt. Arabic is her first language and at first she found it hard to talk to the people at school because she didn’t speak any English. Now she says the most important skill a scientist needs is to be able to communicate.

If you want to do work like Salma's, she says you should read, read, read. Read fiction. Read nonfiction. Learn how to write well. Learn how to speak in front of people. If you can tell people about your work, you can find organizations that will support it.

Whether she is working at her desk or on a research boat, Salma knows that her work is important. She is helping to protect whales.

Photo Credits

Humpback Whale Breach: Permission by Whale Museum

Permission for Salma's photos given by Salma Abdel-Raheem

Read these books or ask your librarian to help you find other books about whales . . .


by Lynne Kelly

From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she's the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she's not very smart. If you've ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.

When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to "sing" to him! But he's three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?

Find more books by Lynne Kelly at her website.


by Jean Craighead George

In 1848, a young boy witnesses a rare sight—the birth of a bowhead, or ice whale, he calls Siku. Years later, he unwittingly brings about the death of an entire pod of whales, and only Siku survives. For this act, the boy receives a curse of banishment. Through the generations, this curse is handed down: Siku returns year after year, in reality and dreams, to haunt the boy’s descendants. Told in alternating voices, both human and whale, Jean Craighead George’s last novel shows the interconnectedness of humankind and the animals they depend on. Find more books by Jean Craighead George at her website.


A Book About Whales teaches young readers everything they need to know about the largest mammals on earth: how they have evolved over millions of years, what and how they eat, their migration patterns, and more! Andrea Antinori’s whimsical black-and-white illustrations bring their underwater world to life. The book discusses a variety of whales one by one so readers learn to tell the differences between a blue whale and a humpback whale, among others, and what makes each of these whales unique. Packed with facts and playful in tone, this book is a must-have for young and curious nature lovers. It includes a bibliography and index. Ages 8 - 12.

. . . and visit these websites to learn more.


How Whales Change the Climate from Canada Science and Technology Museum.

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