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SERDP and ESTCP have launched a webinar series to promote the transfer of innovative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions developed through projects funded in five program areas. The webinar series targets Department of Defense and Department of Energy practitioners, the regulatory community and environmental researchers with the goal of providing cutting edge and practical information that is easily accessible at no cost.
The Relationship of Body Condition of Whales with Behavior and Reproductive Status by Dr. Patrick Miller
The risk of harm to cetaceans from underwater noise is an important environmental and regulatory issue faced by the Department of Defense, in particular the Navy. Noise may reduce foraging rates and thereby body condition, which is a good predictor of offspring survival and reproductive success. Current methods for estimating body condition in cetaceans, however, are descriptive or do not measure full-body fat (lipid) stores. This project is validating and using a novel, non-invasive method to measure total body lipid-stores of free-ranging cetaceans. The cornerstone of the approach is to measure body density of tagged animals, which corresponds to lipid content (fat stores) in mammals because lipids are less dense than other compartments (e.g., bone, skin). The two target species, Northern bottlenose and humpback whales, are being studied in established field sites in the North Atlantic Ocean. Results are validating an innovative technique to measure body condition in cetaceans and enable examining the interplay of body condition with foraging and anti-predator behaviors and the reproductive status of females.
Deep Mapping Squid-Feeding Whales and Their Prey Fields by Dr. Kelly Benoit-Bird
Deep-diving teuthivorous (squid-feeding) whales that have posed concerns related to sound exposure from Navy sonars. In the last decade great progress has been made in understanding the behavior and biology of whales such as sperm and beaked whales that feed primarily on squid. Studying their prey, however, has presented difficulties because of the squids’ rapid speed, relatively large size, and foraging depth. This project is developing an effective, easily deployed, adaptable remote sensing tool for measuring both the prey field and occupancy patterns of sperm and beaked whales to depths of at least 1200 m and utilizing this tool to understand how prey affects the behavior of deep-diving whales and how this behavior may affect sound exposure risk. The tool was developed by integrating an echosounder into an existing REMUS 600 UUV and developing onboard acoustical data processing capabilities within the integrated echosounder module. Results from a field expedition in and around the Navy’s Southern California Offshore Range (SCORE) are providing insights into how beaked whales use their habitat and into the prey that is critical for their survival.
Dr. Patrick Miller is a reader (UK equivalent of an associate professor) at the University of Saint Andrews in the United Kingdom. His research focuses on communication and behavioral ecology of marine mammals, recording and describing the behavior patterns of marine mammals in order to elucidate their function, and how life in the sea affects behavior and physiology. This research often makes use of novel research tools such as hydrophone arrays to identify which whale within a group is calling, and animal-attached tags. Patrick was a Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo in 2011 and was a recipient of the Kobe Award in 2013.
Dr. Kelly Benoit-Bird, a Professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, examines a wide range of animals including zooplankton, fish, squid, and marine mammals using active acoustics (sonar) to understand the role of spatial heterogeneity (patches) and temporal patterns in pelagic marine ecosystems. She is particularly interested in the role of animal behavior in the formation of patches in the ocean and the effects of behavior like schooling, cooperation, and other ‘group’ processes on inter-individual and predator-prey interactions. She received her B.S from Brown University and her Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii before completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. In 2010, Kelly was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, commonly referred as a "genius award."