Staff commence PhD's at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.
The Director and founder of BMMRO, Diane Claridge, will pursue her PhD on spatial processes in the population ecology of beaked whales. She sets out her proposal below.
I propose to use a combination of photo-identification, genetic and line-transect survey data to investigate the population ecology
of beaked whales in the Great Bahama Canyon, specifically to understand key spatial processes. Data already exist from studies at different
spatial scales: off SW Abaco Island and at the US Navy's Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre in the Tongue of the Ocean (TOTO).
Each of these studies has provided photo-identification and visual survey data at a relatively fine geographic scale, in addition to opportunistic
collection of tissue samples. In recent years, the spatial scale of this effort has been broadened by line-transect sighting surveys, photo-identification
studies and biopsy tissue sampling throughout the canyon. Line transect data will be used to assess spatial distribution and habitat use relative to fixed
physical parameters and environmental variables. Photo-identification data will be used to document individual movement patterns in both continuous space
and between discrete study sites. Wider-scale population structuring will also be inferred from molecular genetic analyses of tissue samples. Potential
impacts of naval activities will be directly assessed by examining differences in relative abundance, turnover, habitat use, social structure, group
composition and size structure between an area with high military use (TOTO) and an area with low military use (SW Abaco). Results from this work will
be used to develop conservation directives for beaked whales in the Bahamas.
The President of BMMRO, Charlotte Dunn, has also commenced her PhD, and will focus on acoustic communication amongst Blainville's beaked whales.
I propose to use datasets acquired from a towed array during line-transect surveys, from the bottom-mounted array at the US
Navy's Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre in the Tongue of the Ocean (TOTO), from D-Tag data, that is tags that
house a hydrophone that were put on animals using suction cups, and from a tetrahedron deployed from a small RHIB. With these
datasets I will search for both social sounds, and signs of communication from echolocation clicks, as well as intra or inter
species variability. Results from this work will be used to develop conservation directives for beaked whales in the Bahamas.
For more information on the Sea Mammal Research Unit and the University
of St Andrews.