‘FAMILIAR FECES': CETACEAN POOP-SCOOPING BY SPECIES


1238860_644550912230805_1918179367_n

‘FAMILIAR FECES': CETACEAN POOP-SCOOPING BY SPECIES

UPDATE I name-checked BMMRO intern Oscar Ward’s blog below. Now he’s been out on the ocean on ‘poop patrol’. You can read Oscar’s account of his experiences HERE

Among the many pleasures for cetacean research scientists must be the joy of whale poop collection. Followed by close inspection and analysis. The Bahamas  Marine Mammal Research Organisation BMMRO conducts research expeditions, in conjunction with such organisations as the New England Aquarium NEAQ and Friends of the Environment FOTE, in Abaco waters and further afield in the Bahamas. The attention this year has been on beaked whale feces, though available sperm whale feces are not to be sniffed at. Images and info below are courtesy of the organisations mentioned above, with thanks for use permission

TopHead_070815o_01_Md_DEC_035

A researcher working with BMMRO demonstrates feces collection using coffee grounds. She collects the coffee granules in her net and places the entire sample into a ziplock bag, ready to hand to the boat for processing 269

The purpose of feces collection is to look at the stress and reproductive hormones of the whales and to gather a baseline for these animals with which to compare other populations that are under threat3

An alternative method of collectionpoop15

Blainville’s Beaked Whales (suppliers of raw research material)Blainville's Beaked Whale AbacoBeaked whale - supplier of poop BMMRO

There are some conditions – dare I say windy ones – when Blainville’s beaked whales may be hard to locate. At such times, collection of pieces of other species feces rarely ceases… Here is a sperm whale in the act of producing laboratory samplesTail_18Jun10_01_Pm_CAD_123

Weather of the sort that makes the day’s collection more complicated. Indeed, it looks and uphill task…GOPR0109

That’s enough on the topic for now. Later in the month there will be some great dolphin pictures to enjoy. Below is the BMMRO sightings chart for July, which I forgot to publish sooner.

Finally, a young UK friend of ours, Oscar Ward, has recently won his place to study marine biology at university next Autumn. He has just arrived on Abaco to start an internship with the BMMRO at Sandy Point. He will then be moving to Friends of the Environment in MH. He has set up an excellent blog to record his experiences, with his first Abaco post going up today, I notice. You can follow Oscar at SEVENTYPERCENT.COM And if you see him around, do say hi! to him.

BMMRO SIGHTINGS JULY 2013

WHALE & DOLPHIN RESEARCH, PHOTOS & SIGHTINGS REPORT


WHALE & DOLPHIN RESEARCH, PHOTOS & SIGHTINGS REPORT

The Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO) has recently been involved in a major tagging and monitoring program  around Andros, in particular using sonar to test the responses of beaked whales. Being all at sea for a few weeks meant that many other marine mammals were encountered. Thanks to Charlotte and Diane for permission to use some of their photographs taken during the research trip – and also in Abaco waters – to illustrate the amazing diversity of cetacean life in the waters of the northern Bahamas.

Click me!

RESEARCH VESSEL “SLUMBER VENTURE”'Slumber Venture' survey vessel

WHALES

A Sperm Whale with unusual pigmentation

SPERM WHALES OFF ANDROSSperm WhalesSPERM WHALE TAILINGSperm Whale tailingTHAT GULL SURELY CAN’T BE CRAZY ENOUGH TO…Gull landing on Sperm WhaleWELL, IT JUST DID!Gull landed on Sperm Whale

MELON-HEADED WHALES – MOTHER & NEW-BORN CALF

Melon-headed Whale mother with new calf

THE FIN OF A MALE BEAKED WHALEBeaked whales - the fin of a male

DOLPHINS

BOTTLENOSE DOPHIN & CALFBottlenose Dolphin & Calf, Abaco

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINBottlenose Dolphin near Gorda Cay

DOLPHINS BOW-RIDINGDolphins bow-riding

SPOTTED DOLPHINSSpotted Dolphins Spotted Dolphins x 4

ROUGH-TOOTHED DOLPHINS

The research, tagging and monitoring programs pay dividends in conservation and species preservation terms… but then along comes a brutal reminder, way out in the pristine ocean, of the far-reaching extent of man’s reckless damage of the planet and the creatures in it. This poor animal has become swathed in plastic.  The likelihood is that its stomach will have dozens of pieces of plastic in it, from microscopic to potentially damaging – or fatal. We made it all, and we chucked it away.Marine Mammals & plastic

Moving into less contentious areas, here is the BMMRO sightings list for the last month, with a great deal of activity recorded. For once there is even a sighting included of my very own, of 3 bottlenose dolphins in Hope Town harbour one lunchtime in mid-June. See HERE

BMMRO June Sightings

Finally, the latest news from the BMMRO is that Dr Diane Claridge, besides being awarded her PhD earlier this year for her research on beaked whales, has graduated from the ancient scottish university of St Andrews, founded in  1413. It is the third-oldest university in the english-speaking world (and the oldest in the scottish-speaking world…).Dr Diane Claridge, St Andrews Uni

Georgie Manatee BMMRO SUPPORT LOGO

Credit: savethemanatee.org

BLAINVILLE’S BEAKED WHALES’ FEEDING GROUND ON ABACO / BMMRO MAY 2012 REPORT


BMMRO MAY 2012 REPORT / THE BEAKED WHALES’ FEEDING GROUND

The BMMRO report for May 2012 has just been published. It’s quite short so I am posting it ‘as is’. While I am about it, Charlotte Dunn has just emailed me about an aerial shot we took on a flight from MH to Nassau of the southern stretch of Abaco coast between Hole-in-the-Wall and Rocky Point. She writes “that stretch of dark water is the North West Providence channel and where we often see our infamous beaked whales. They dive down to get their food, diving to 2000m in some cases!” In the top photo, the plane is roughly over Hole-in-the-Wall. Sandy Point Airport is just visible (top centre). The second close-up photo clearly shows how the shallow coastal water quickly gives way to the deeper water of the channel.

BMMRO Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation Banner
BMMRO NEWS MAY 2012
May fieldworkProject: Monitoring beaked whale responses to sonar tests at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Centre (AUTEC)
A collaborative effort to deploy satellite tags on odontocete cetaceans on and around the US Navy’s Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) in the northern Bahamas took place for the seventh time during April – May 2012. This project aims to monitor the movements of beaked whales and other odontocetes in relation to active sonar exercises, and particularly tests around multi-ship sonar exercises, on the AUTEC weapons range. This is a collaboration between the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation, the Protected Resources Division of the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (http://swfsc.noaa.gov/prd.aspx) and the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC, http://www.nuwc.navy.mil/), with funding provided by the Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division – N45. Secondary objectives include obtaining photo-identification data and biopsy samples.Below a picture is showing a satellite LIMPET tag being deployed on a Blainville’s beaked whale at AUTEC. These small low-profile tags are attached using a crossbow to deploy the tag on a projectile bolt; on contact with whale this bolt falls away (as shown), leaving only the transmitter tag attached to the animal. Two of these tags were deployed in early May 2012, transmitting dive depth data and location signals for 18 and 28 days.

tag placement on Blainville's beaked whale

The field team worked in co-ordination with NUWC’s Marine Mammal Monitoring on Navy Ranges (M3R) team based at Site 1, AUTEC. M3R vectored the vessel to acoustic detections of cetaceans on the range.

Sightings were made of 3 species: Blainville’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon densirostris), sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), and melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra). There were 7 satellite tag deployments, 4 on sperm whales, 1 on a melon-headed whale and 2 on beaked whales. Both of the tags deployed on the beaked whales have provided movement and depth data prior to, during and after the multi-ship sonar exercise at AUTEC.

To read more about this project, go to the NOAA website to see their report.
Project: Assessing beaked whale reproduciton and stress response relative to sonar activity at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Centre (AUTEC)
Fieldwork took place in south Abaco with the field team based at BMMRO’s research centre in Sandy Point. The effort lasted two weeks and 22 biopsy samples were collected from 23 of the Blainville’s beaked whales sighted during the period, the 23rd animal was a calf and too small to biopsy.

These samples will be used to look at reproductive and stress hormone levels, and will be compared to samples taken from whales residing on the AUTEC range in Andros, during a project scheduled to take place in July this year. This project is funded with a research grant from the Office of Naval Research.

SOUNDS UNDER THE SURFACE: NOISE EFFECTS ON WHALES


The NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) has produced a short video with the conclusions from recent research into the effects of extraneous (i.e. non-natural) noise on the habits of whales. The cooperative project involved a number of organisations including the BMMRO and Florida State University and lasted two years.

The study concentrated on beaked whales, pilot whales, and melon headed whales. Using readings from tagged whales, the scientists created animations showing the whales behavior before, during, and after being exposed to low levels of a variety of sounds; including sonar. The results showed that beaked whales, known for diving to extreme depths, were much more sensitive to sonar than other species.  Even low levels of these sounds disrupted their diving, vocal, and likely feeding behaviors.

The complete report including a VIDEO and a transcript can be found by clicking LINK==> Sounds Under the Surface | Science and Technology | Ocean Today   (I haven’t been able to embed the Video, so you’ll get the whole page)