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Whale Telemetry Group (WTG)

The Marine Mammal Institute's Whale Telemetry Group (WTG) has pioneered the development of satellite-monitored radio tags to study the movements, critical habitats, and dive characteristics of free-ranging whales and dolphins around the world. Since the first deployment of a satellite tag on a humpback whale off Newfoundland, Canada, in 1986, the WTG has tagged a total of 462 whales from 11 different species. This work has led to the discovery of previously unknown migration routes and seasonal distribution (wintering and summering areas), as well as descriptions of diving behavior.

The WTG primarily focuses on endangered whale species whose distribution, movements, and critical habitats (feeding, breeding, and migration areas) are unknown for much of the year. Decision makers use this valuable information to manage human activities that may jeopardize the recovery of endangered whale populations.

The objectives of the WTG’s telemetry studies are to: (1) identify whale migration routes; (2) identify specific feeding and breeding grounds, if unknown; (3) characterize local whale movements and dive habits in both feeding and breeding grounds, and during migration; (4) examine the relationships between whale movements/dive habits and prey distribution, time of day, geographic location, or physical and biological oceanographic conditions; (5) provide surfacing-rate information that can be useful in the development of more accurate abundance estimations, or assessing whales’ reactions to human disturbance; (6) characterize whale vocalizations; and (7) characterize sound pressure levels to which whales are exposed.

News and Events

Whale lovers can support Marine Mammal Institute with new license plate

A new license plate featuring a gray whale and her calf likely will be available to Oregon drivers by summer 2017. This project is sponsored by the Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute and enthusiasm for it is running high, said Bruce Mate, director of the institute. “Everybody I’ve shown the plate design to has loved it,” said Mate, whose institute will receive $35 from the Oregon Department of Transportation every time a vehicle owner spends $40 to buy the plate. The money will go toward whale research, graduate student education and public outreach. The institute needs to turn in an “expression of interest” from at least 3,000 vehicle owners stating they plan to buy the plate.

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New tag revolutionizes whale research -- and makes them partners in science

A sophisticated new type of tag on whales that can record data every second for hours, days, and weeks at a time provides a view of whale behavior, biology and travels never before possible, scientists from the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University reported today in a new study. This “Advanced Dive Behavior,” or ADB tag, has allowed researchers to expand their knowledge of whale ecology to areas deep beneath the sea, over thousands of miles of travel, and outline their interaction with the prey they depend upon for food. It has even turned whales into scientific colleagues to help understand ocean conditions and climate change.

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New forecast tool helps ships avoid blue whale hotspots

A new paper describes how blue whale tracking data and oceanographic information can be used for near-real-time predictive locations of blue whales off the West Coast to help reduce risk of ship strikes. The WhaleWatch maps use years of data collected by Bruce Mate and the Whale Telemetry Group at the OSU Marine Mammal Institute.

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