Southwest Harbor filmmaker Thom Willey, center, with middle school students at the Adams School in Castine. A program launched by science teacher Bill McWeeny to support right whale populations is the subject of Willey's next documentary. PHOTO COURTESY OF ROSEMARY WYMAN

Student scientists and a whale named Calvin



CASTINE — Bill McWeeny, a whale researcher and science teacher at the Adams School in Castine, has a group of middle school students who are passionate about the endangered North Atlantic right whale. The group is the subject of an upcoming documentary from filmmaker Thom Willey of Southwest Harbor.

McWeeny has spent thousands of hours volunteering for the New England Aquarium supporting its field research on the species. He brought his love for the whales back to school and started the Calvineers, a student group named for a particular mischievous whale under study by the aquarium. Researchers later learned that Calvin is a female, but the name stuck. She has since had three calves.

The Calvineers are a group of student scientists who promote the conservation of right whales. The students stress education and conservation in their whale work. They work with marine scientists, legislators and those who work on the water to learn about right whales and discuss what actions could be taken to help their small population rebound.

“The Calvineers Movie” will help promote the continuation of the Calvineers program.

Production started in the fall of 2017 when Willey filmed the Calvineers as they presented at the 22nd Biennial Conference on Marine Mammals in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He will continue to follow Bill and the Calvineers for the next two years, documenting as they study in the classroom and throughout New England and as they share their knowledge with other students, scientists and regulatory agencies.

McWeeny received a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Northeastern University and completed a science education master’s program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

For all his time on New England waters, McWeeny has never seen Calvin the whale. Willey hopes during his time following the Calvineers that this will change.

Willey, a Southwest Harbor resident and graduate of Ohio University’s Fine Arts in Film and Theatre program, also will share his filmmaking skills with the students during the production of the documentary. The resultant film will be a celebration of the work done on behalf of Calvin and other North Atlantic right whales.

“Be assured these whales need our help,” Willey said. “There were no known right whale calves born this calving season, and 2017 saw a loss of 17 whales mainly due to fishing gear entanglements and trauma from ship strikes. NOAA currently estimates only 430 North Atlantic right whales remain, so the Calvineers feel an extra urgency to be successful in their work. I will be there to document this unique program as they do.”

A Kickstarter campaign is in the works, and additional funding is now actively being sought for production and travel costs related to the project.

Email thecalvineersmovie@gmail.com or mail correspondence to Thom Willey Films, P.O. Box 4, Southwest Harbor, ME 04679. Follow The Calvineers Movie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.