Wildlife Notes

observation. exploration. reflection.

“What’s up with the whale?”

For the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my campus office with a 5-foot long paper mache North Atlantic Right Whale. She’s good company, and she’s a great conversation-starter! I’ve been asked more than a few times, “What’s up with the whale?

What's up with the whale on my desk? | Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

What’s up with the whale on my desk? | Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

But how is it that I find myself co-habitating with a whale?

It all started with a project I assigned to my ‘Does Extinction Matter?’ students this past semester. I tasked them with synthesizing the information they gathered from readings, research, and class discussions, and reaching out to their campus community about why extinction matters.

I was blown away by what they came up with. On the Thursday before Earth Day, my students installed 6 exhibits on campus to spread awareness about current extinction rates, causes of species decline and extinction, and the role of humans in biodiversity loss. There were prayer flags, “Missing” posters, and silhouettes of endangered species. There was a slideshow projected onto the side of a prominent campus building. There were extinction facts and images etched across campus with sidewalk chalk. And there was a 5-foot long paper mache whale.

Our class’s whale ambassador was created to draw attention. When you see a group of people happily sitting with a 5-foot long whale, you simply have to stop and ask, “What’s up with the whale?” And it worked! Our whale ambassador opened the door for countless conversations about species extinctions, species recovery, and … reducing waste and our consumption of single-use ‘stuff’.

Our whale ambassador was the product of some creative thinking and hard work by three of our class members: Brooke Howland, Kyra LaBerge, and Lucas Theoharidis.

Brooke, Kyra, and Lucas collected cans and bottles from the UNH campus, and used these items to construct the form of our whale …

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KL_Image-1

Photos (above): Kyra LaBerge

Next, they secured the whale ‘skeleton’ with copious duct tape before beginning the paper mache process …

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Photo: Kyra LaBerge

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Photo: Kyra LaBerge

The whale’s paper mache exterior was crafted using expired issues of ‘The New Hampshire’, our campus newspaper …

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Photo: Brooke Howland

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Photo: Brooke Howland

Rather than painting the finished product, ‘Team Whale’ decided it was more interesting to leave her with a recycled look. I agree.

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Look at these three.  They should be proud!

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage  | Left to Right: Kyra, Brooke, & Lucas

During Earth Fest, these three four did a great job communicating their message about extinction and reducing waste. They even put together some literature to share

The motivation for the whale sculpture

The motivation for the whale sculpture

Let's learn something about our whale ambassador species

Let’s learn something about our whale ambassador species

And, what we all really want to know ... How can I help?

And, what we all really want to know … How can I help?

Well done, Brooke, Kyra, and Lucas!


Written by Jennifer Purrenhage {Editor} 

Scroll below to see snapshots from other ‘Extinction Matters!’ projects.


Extinction Awareness Flags pinned up across UNH campus …

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Endangered & Extinct Species Silhouettes in Dimond Library …

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

“MISSING” Posters — to grab people’s attention and spread awareness about the causes of population declines and species extinctions …

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

And, Sidewalk Chalk Messaging — to guide and terrify us 🙂 …

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

Photo: Jennifer Purrenhage

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