Cynde McInnis grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Oddly enough, although surrounded by farms, she fell in love with whales at the age of eight. In 1994, she graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Psychology, focusing on learning and development. In August 1994, she interned with Ocean Alliance and Cape Ann Whale Watch of Gloucester, MA. Told she would eat, sleep and think whales, she thought, “What could be better?”
This three-month internship turned into a career, and for 24 years, she developed and led Cape Ann Whale Watch’s Field Research and Marine Education Internship, training over 100 interns and numerous volunteers in data collection techniques and presentation of educational programs aboard whale watch boats. She has led over 2000 whale watch trips and taught hundreds of thousands of people about whales and the threats they face in our oceans today.
In 2002, she completed a master’s degree from Lesley University, in Interdisciplinary Studies, creating her own program of study focusing on whale watch education. For her thesis, she developed a curriculum for whale watch trips; to cultivate respect for our oceans, to educate about their environmental threats and to inspire people to make a commitment towards their protection.
While working for Ocean Alliance, Cynde participated in the Voyage of the Odyssey, a five-year global expedition designed to gather comprehensive data on the health of the worlds' oceans. By gathering and analyzing blubber and skin samples from sperm whales, Ocean Alliance was the first organization to document toxic levels of DDT, heavy metals, flame-retardants and PCB's in sperm whales all over the world.
Cynde has also coordinated and participated in teacher training programs sponsored by the University of Georgia and The Museum Institute for Teaching Science, MITS. She has led camps for children in the Gloucester area and teaches at Maritime Gloucester. She was the education chair for the American Cetacean Society for two years and Vice-President of Cetacean Society International for two years.
Today, Cynde is very involved with whale conservation from many angles. She is a Board member of Aeon for Ocean. She is an adjunct professor at Salem State University--teaching Environmental Interpretation, Intro to Tourism as well as a freshman seminar on, you guessed it--whales! Most recently, she is co-organizing a conservation campaign called 2020 Year of the Right Whale to ensure right whales get the protection they need by 2020.
Nile is an adult female humpback whale that lives in the North Atlantic (NA). In the Western NA, humpbacks are named after marks on their tails. Nile has a large black line on the left side of her tail that looks like the Nile River. She was born in 1987 to a whale named Mars. Mars was first sighted in 1979; we aren't sure how old she is because she wasn't seen as a calf. Mars has returned to the coast of Massachusetts with 11 different calves (including Nile) over the past 40 years and counting. Nile herself has been a mom six times, with her most recent calf in 2016.
Nile is one of Cynde's favorite whales. The first trip she did as naturalist by herself was in early October, 1995. It was a beautiful calm day, and Nile surfaced head first right next to the boat. She was a very friendly whale, meaning she would come spend time next to the boat, seeming to check it out. Cynde remembers when Nile returned with her first calf in 1998, a whale given the name Amazon. Cynde saw Nile every year (except one) that she worked as a naturalist. It's no surprise that Nile is the whale that Cynde chose to make a replica of.
We encourage you to go whale watching out of Gloucester or Newburyport! From Newburyport, you are closest to Jeffreys Ledge but can reach the Northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. Jeffreys Ledge often has a high diversity of critters to see. From Gloucester, you can go to Stellwagen Bank OR Jeffreys Ledge--depending on where the whales are. All provide educational experiences on the water, and if you are lucky, you might get a glimpse of Nile herself!!