To estimate the size of dolphin and whale populations, biologists use statistics and a scientific technique called mark-recapture. By taking photos of animals’ dorsal fins or flukes, we can identify individuals and check catalogues of known animals to see how frequently they have been sighted or whether they are new animals. The more new animals we see, the healthier our populations are doing. The better the cameras, the better quality the photos and the higher chance of having one that can be matched. #HICEAS2017
The RV Reuben Lasker’s flying bridge is where the real action takes place on marine mammal surveys. Situated nearly 50 feet above the water, observers have a better vantage point for spotting whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and seabirds. Here, the research team goes ‘on effort’ on day one to start making sure everyone is comfortable with the protocols and their individual tasks, which might include entering data, looking through the big eye binoculars to identify the species or estimate the group size, communicating with the bridge and acoustics team, taking photos for individual identification, preparing to biopsy animals from the bow, etc. It’s quite the undertaking and requires everyone knowing their role and working together to successfully and smoothly collectContinue reading
Out in the middle of the Pacific it can sometimes be difficult to tell various species of shearwaters or petrels apart, but tropic birds always stand out due to their white coloration and distinctive way of flying.
The R/V Reuben Lasker is a 208 foot NOAA research vessel home-ported in San Diego, California. The Lasker is operated primarily by NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Center and is used for conducting fisheries science research such as bottom trawl surveys, protected species assessments, and other oceanographic work. This fall, the Lasker and Southwest Center and partnering with the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center to conduct a marine mammal and seabird survey of the entire Pacific Islands EEZ, including the Northwest and Main Hawaiian Islands, as well as the national monument. For more information, check out the Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey (HICEAS) website at: https://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/hiceas/