DV-11-12 Improving spatial resolution of marine mammal behavioral observation data at Mount Desert Rock

Sean Todd
Director, Allied Whale and Steven K. Katona Chair in Marine Sciences
College of the Atlantic
105 Eden Street
Bar Harbor, ME 04609

Allied Whale has been studying endangered humpback, fin, and right whales from Mount Desert Rock’s marine field station for nearly 40 years. Visual observations from small vessels and from the island’s lighthouse tower have established a long-term record of marine mammal presence over time. However, the location (bearing and range) is not always included, making it difficult for researchers to link the presence of whales with their habitat. Sea Grant funds supported purchase of a digital surveying theodolite and accessories to collect, store, and process spatial data that can later be resolved into marine mammal swim tracks and other animal behavior. The spatial data provides a visual complement to acoustic survey data.

With 360-degree views and automatic data recording, the theodolite has greatly advanced Todd’s research with Allied Whale, the marine mammal research division of College of the Atlantic, providing a more accurate assessment of whale location and habitat use.

The increased research capacity led to Mount Desert Rock being selected as a research site for an important collaboration between Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and NOAA, where spatial data are being combined with acoustic survey data, allowing whale sightings to be correlated with the sounds they make underwater.

Sea Grant funds: $4,000