The Bio-Telemetry and Behavioral Ecology Laboratory is focused on using new biotelemetry technology to understand the underwater behavior and ecology of marine mammals. As animals that live largely out of sight from direct observation, devising new tools to measure, interpret, and quantify the behavioral ecology of marine mammals is critical. We are interested in the behavior of animals across a range of spatial and temporal scales and how this is affected by a variety of ecological inputs.
Currently our research is focused on these central themes:
How do we measure feeding events in baleen whales?
How do changes in the feeding behavior of whales relate to changes in their prey?
How is the behavior of marine mammals affected by anthropogenic sounds in the ocean?
How are the distribution, behavior, and population structure of baleen whales in Antarctica influenced by a rapidly changing environment?
Each of these themes is being addressed in a different long-term research program. Through the incorporation of new sensor packages, video, and audio technology, we are working with colleagues at a number of universities and institutes to develop new tags that can precisely measure underwater behaviors of marine mammals and that can be used on a number of species from the smallest porpoise to the largest whale.
By collecting information about the abundance and behavior of prey concurrent to when tags are deployed, we can begin to understand how these changes affect the ways in which baleen whales forage. We currently have field projects in Antarctica, Alaska, California, and Cape Cod, to collect information from a variety of species in a number of marine ecosystems to compare and contrast the ways in which baleen whales maximize their foraging efficiency.
In coordination with the Office of Naval Research and a large group of academic and industry partners, we are conducting experiments in the waters off California to understand the behavioral responses of marine mammals to anthropogenic sounds. Using new tag technology, this behavioral response study has shed light on the baseline behavior of a number of marine mammal species and also the ways in which these animals respond to different sounds.
As the Antarctic Peninsula warms faster than any other region on the planet, understanding how these changes affect the structure and function of the Antarctic marine ecosystem is a paramount question. In order to understand the effects of these changes on Antarctic marine mammals, we have joined the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research program supported by the National Science Foundation. This long-term project will allow us to measure the behavior of individual whales at fine and broad scales and determine how changes in sea ice and other oceanographic properties affect the behavior and population structure of animals.