The eastern North Pacific is a species-rich area with a total of 30 marine mammal species known to occur in Oregon and Washington waters. The seasonal abundance and distribution of marine mammals in Oregon’s near-shore waters is not well understood. So far, periodic marine mammal surveys off the Pacific Northwest coast have been restricted to late-summer and the fall months with survey efforts in Oregon, typically lasting only a few weeks. Coverage of the winter and early spring months is lacking, as are year-round observations needed to establish seasonal distributions and migration patterns.

As part of her M.S. research, GEMM Lab graduate student Amanda Holdman will be combining passive-acoustic and visual surveys, two methodologies with high spatial and temporal resolution, to effectively monitor marine mammals in Newport, Oregon’s near-shore waters. Visual surveys alone are less comprehensive than a combined effort to simultaneously collect visual and acoustic data. The integration of visual and acoustic survey methods is advantageous in that it reduces methodology bias (i.e. acoustically detect subsurface animals, visually detect non-vocalizing animals), aids in species identification, and results in a more robust data set for analysis. In addition, the wave energy climate of the Pacific Northwest offers great potential for commercial energy extraction. This project will provide needed information on marine mammal occurrence and movements and evaluate potential impacts from anthropogenic activities such as wind and wave energy converters.

This project began data collection in January 2014 under the supervision of Dr. Holger Klinck and Dr. Leigh Torres. The results of this study will provide baseline data on marine mammal spatiotemporal distribution for managing and mitigating potential anthropogenic harm from wind and wave energy devices and associated activities, as well as provide a better understanding of outer shelf processes and the linkages between seasonal cycles of marine mammals and physical, chemical, and lower-trophic-level properties.