- Program Areas
- Energy and Water
- Environmental Restoration
- Munitions Response
- Resource Conservation and Climate Change
- Natural Resources
- Cultural Resources
- Climate Change
- Air Quality
- Weapons Systems and Platforms
Behavioral Ecology of Deep-Diving Odontocetes in the Bahamas
Navy sonar has been linked to behavioral responses, including unusual strandings, of beaked whales and other odontocete (toothed whale) species. Baseline information on the behavioral ecology of odontocetes is needed to inform and improve monitoring and mitigation of species at risk. To fill key data gaps, this project will examine the behavioral ecology of six deep-diving odontocete species in the Great Bahama Canyon to provide a context for interpreting behavioral responses to sonar exposure, specifically at the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) within this study area.
This project will use a unique set of individual-based data to quantify and model the behavioral ecology of six Department of Defense priority species in The Bahamas. Researchers will integrate data acquired through individual photo-identification; molecular genetics; fatty acid (FA), persistent organic pollutant (POP), and stable isotope (SI) profiles; satellite telemetry; and acoustic recordings to characterize the social structure, residency patterns, reproductive biology, diet, foraging ecology, and population structuring of key cetacean species. These interdisciplinary data can be used to model the response of these species to naval sounds.
A critical component of this study is the collection of individual-based data through photographic, remote biopsy, and satellite telemetry methods. An existing data set will be enhanced by increasing sample sizes and sampling a larger proportion of social groups to enable stratification of behavioral variance by age class, sex, animal condition, and group composition and behavior. Analyses in this multi-faceted study will include capture-recapture models to estimate abundance and rates of movement; molecular genetics to examine both population and social structuring; and chemical analyses to identify primary foraging habitats and prey preferences, including nitrogen and carbon SI ratios, blubber FAs, lipid class compositions, and POPs. Satellite "dart-tags" will be used to monitor the movements of individual odontocetes in near real-time. A large (approximately 35m) vessel will be used to conduct visual and acoustic surveys of the Great Bahama Canyon using standardized line-transect survey methods. Analyses will include comparison between species addressing niche separation and competition in this oligotrophic system.
DoD will benefit from improved knowledge of the foraging and behavioral ecology of six priority cetaceans, all of which have distributions that overlap Navy operating areas. These data will provide much-needed baseline information to model the response of cetaceans to navy sonar and set dose-response thresholds accounting for individual- and population-level variance, leading to improved monitoring and mitigation when and where exposures occur. (Anticipated Project Completion - 2015)
Symposium & Workshop
FY 2013 New Start Project Selections
Points of Contact
Ms. Diane Claridge
Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation
Resource Conservation and Climate Change
SERDP and ESTCP
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