Other Surveys at the Protected Species Branch, NEFSC
In addition to abundance surveys and right whale sighting surveys, PSB also regularly conducts other research cruises such as right whale habitat surveys, tagging and biopsy cruises, and fieldwork to support our acoustics and pinniped teams. The May 2010 right whale cruise is a recent example.
May 2010 Right Whale Cruise
Right Whale #1715 with r/v Delaware II - photo by Allison Henry NEFSC
On May 3, 2010 the NOAA research vessel Delaware II departed the dock at Woods Hole bound for the Great South Channel with scientists from NEFSC, Georgia DNR, and WHOI onboard. The Great South Channel is a designated critical habitat off the coast of Massachusetts where endangered North Atlantic right whales congregate every spring to forage. The main goals of the cruise were to study the animals’ dive behavior as it relates to prey distribution by use of time-depth recorder (TDR) tags; and to obtain photographs for individual whale identifications, biopsy samples, and acoustic recordings from large whales (primarily right whales). On May 21, 2010, the ship returned to the dock having successfully fulfilled its goals.
Tag On! Suction cup tag deployed on a right whale by WHOI team - photo WHOI
Beautiful weather provided 8 days on which the two small boats could be launched to perform tagging and photo ID/biopsy work. The tagging team from WHOI successfully attached 14 suction cup TDR tags to right whales and one dermal TDR tag to a sei whale. While the tags were on the animals, the ship collected water and plankton samples in the vicinity of the tagged animals. The dive profile data, and water and plankton samples are currently being analyzed.
Right Whale #2614 - photo by Beth Josephson NEFSC
The photo ID/biopsy team photographed 136 individuals and collected 12 skin samples. Three of these samples were from calves that had not been darted on the southern calving grounds and five samples were from individuals that have been documented since the 1980’s but never genetically sampled! Of particular excitement was the sighting and biopsy sampling of EGNO 1715, an animal only documented 7 times since its first sighting in 1987. With the small skin sample we obtained, we now hope to not only discover this animal’s gender but also determine its genetic lineage.
For more images, check out the blog of this trip.
Biopsy dart of Right Whale #1513 - photo by Lisa Conger NEFSC