Southern right whales are having a baby boom — and a rare white calf was caught on camera.

Whale watching is always fun! Hooray!

Well, except for that whole waiting part or the risk of not seeing one at all. But even for researchers whose job it is to stare at the aquatic behemoths all day, a recent whale sighting in Australia was a HUGE DEAL.

The Cetacean Research Unit from Murdoch University has been in the midst of a massive study on the breeding and calving behaviors of southern right whales in the Great Australian Bight. And recently, their drone-tracking cameras happened upon this magical moment:


Aw, look! They're cuddling! GIF via MUCRU/YouTube.

The most obviously awesome part of it — besides the cuddles, of course — was this little white calf.

Southern right whales aren't usually white. According to the BBC, only 5% of right whales are born white, but the gray and black spotting takes over by the end of their first year. The initial white coloring isn't albinism, but there's not really any clear answer on what causes it either. And you certainly won't find any all-white adult southern right whales, which makes this rare sighting all the more amazing.

Photo via Fredrik Christiansen/Murdoch University, used with permission.

There's also the fact that southern right whale populations have been hurting for a long time.

"Save the whales!" is a pretty common refrain because humans kind of decimated these massive, mysterious marine mammals over a few hundred years. But while the sperm whales and the hump whales have been doing pretty well with recovery and repopulation, southern right whales are still having a rough go of it.

The Great Australian Bight, where these photos were taken, is the largest southern right whale nursery in the world — but even that means there's only about 3,000 estimated to be living there, about one-fifth of their pre-whaling population.

Maybe that mama started life out as a white one? She's got the spots to prove it. Photo via Fredrik Christiansen/Murdoch University, used with permission.

That makes it even more amazing that researchers would spot a white calf like they did.

Researchers have counted a whopping 80 or so newborn southern right whales this year. And that's a record-breaking high.

"Last year was one of our lowest years ever recorded, so the fact this year is high is a reassuring factor. [...] To know the whales are having a high year is very important," said Claire Charlton, a researcher from Curtin University, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"This project will benefit the conservation of southern right whales by teaching us more about their health and reproduction," added Fredrik Christiansen, a researcher from Murdoch University, in an interview with BBC.

"WHALE hello there!" Photo via Fredrik Christiansen/Murdoch University, used with permission.

And that's why these researchers were out taggin' and trackin' in the first place: to figure out why things are looking up for these magnificent leviathans.

Even though we've stopped actively killing whales in the whaling industry, we still can't say for certain how human industrial activity has continued to affect their lives and populations.

Oil drilling in particular is a pressing concern — and it doesn't take a spill for the machinery and noise pollution to do damage to the whales. (Of course, if there is an oil spill, even BP has admitted that it won't be pretty.)

By recording the sounds and movements made by the whales, as well as their reactions to the environment around them, researchers are better able to understand the entire ecosystem now, so they're learning how to keep those whales safe.

Photo via Fredrik Christiansen/Murdoch University, used with permission.

So that's the big question: Has the southern right whale population started to recover because companies like BP haven't been working underwater?

We can't say for certain. But it's likely, and it's worth figuring out before we make things worse.

"We've been assured that the exploration would have no negative impact on the whales [and] we'd like to think that is definitely the case, but we don't know," explained Haydyn Bromley of the Aboriginal Land Trust.

"What we would hate to see is the area devastated because perhaps someone made a mistake, or someone didn't calibrate something properly and next thing you know, this pristine area could be at risk."

The Great Australian Bight is home to hordes of incredible aquatic creatures — 85% of which can't be found anywhere else in the world.

Let's keep those creatures safe.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

As Canada's women's soccer team prepares for its gold medal match against Sweden this week in Tokyo, it also prepares to make history as the first Olympic team to have an openly transgender, non-binary athlete win a medal at the games.

Quinn, the 25-year-old midfielder, announced their non-binary identity on social media last September, adopting they/them pronouns and a singular name. Quinn said they'd been living openly as a transgender person with their loved ones, but this was their first time coming out publicly.

"I want to be visible to queer folks who don't see people like them on their feed. I know it saved my life years ago," they wrote. "I want to challenge cis folks ( if you don't know what cis means, that's probably you!!!) to be better allies."

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