Distribution and Abundance of Marine Mammals
We lead a Consortium of academic institutions in a large-scale research program to provide the U.S. Navy with baseline data on the occurrence, density and residency patterns of marine mammals and sea turtles at several reference sites in the Atlantic Fleet Training and Testingarea. We conduct year-round research in the following areas: Norfolk Canyon, Virginia, Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida. The Consortium includes Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institition and the University of St. Andrews. Our program consists of line transect aerial surveys, photo-identification, biopsy sampling, deployment of satellite-linked and Digital Acoustic Tags, behavioral observations and passive acoustic monitoring using High Frequency Acoustic Recording Packages. This program is yielding a rich picture of the distribution and ecology of pelagic cetaceans in these areas. This project is supported by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic.ic cetaceans, in these areas. This project is supported by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic.
Population Structure of Bottlenose Dolphins in North Carolina
The objective of this study is to understand patterns of distribution and overlap of several stocks of bottlenose dolphins in waters of North Carolina. For example, the Northern North Carolina Estuarine stock is distributed primarily within Pamlico Sound, but occasionally extends into coastal waters. The Southern Migratory Coastal stock is only found in coastal waters (as its name implies). Dolphins from both stocks are at risk of entanglement in near-shore gill net fisheries; our research is designed to determine which of these two forms is most as risk of entanglement in near-shore nets. We are employing photo-identification, biopsy sampling and analysis of stable isotopes to determine the distribution of these stocks. This work is led by Kim Urian and supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Ecology of Humpback Whales Along the Antarctic Peninsula
Each January, we sample humpback whales (using photo-identification and biopsy techniques) and their prey from Palmer Station and deploy satellite-linked tags on humpbacks over a broader area of the Antarctic Peninsula from the Antarctic Research Vessel Laurence M. Gould.
Foraging Ecology of Short-finned Pilot Whales
We are conducting a long-term study of short-finned pilot whales off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. We employ a variety of methods, including photo-identification, biopsy sampling, fisheries oceanography and the application of Digital Acoustic Tags (DTags) to study the behavior and ecology of these animals. We are particularly interested in their foraging behavior and interactions with the pelagic longline fishery in this area; some whales have learned to remove captured tuna – a behavior termed depredation – which leads to an economic cost to the fishery and a risk of entanglement to the whales. This research is conducted with colleagues at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and has been supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic, North Carolina Sea Grant Fishery Resource Grant Program and the Consortium for Wildlife Bycatch Reduction.
Conservation of the Vaquita
Atlantic Behavioral Response Study
Acoustic Startle Response in Cetaceans
In this project we will be working with Professor Vincent Janik from the University of St. Andrews to examine two features of the acoustic startle reflex in cetaceans. Specifically, we will use the startle response to test hearing in humpback whales off Virginia Beach during winter and sensitization to startle sounds in Cuvier’s beaked whales off Cape Hatteras during summer. individuals of both species will be equipped with Digital Acoustic Tags to allow us to document their response. This work is supported by the Office of Naval Research.