Antarctica- That's a wrap!

Dr. Holly Fearnbach, SR3’s Marine Mammal Research Director, and her colleagues John Durban (NOAA) and Leigh Hickmott (Open Ocean Consulting) completed their research efforts on whale health and ecology in Antarctica last week. The team flew 89 flights with an unmanned hexacopter to assess individual body condition and estimate body size to infer trophic impact of important top predators around the Antarctic Peninsula. They obtained images of all three killer whale types found around the Antarctic Peninsula (Type A, B1 and B2), 27 humpback whales, 1 Antarctic minke whale and 7 Arnoux’s beaked whales. The hexacopter was also used to collect 10 blow samples from humpback whales that will be used to evaluate respiratory microbiome communities and relate respiratory health to body condition. This season was a tremendous success and would not have been possible without the support of the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund (LEX-NG), NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center and SR3.

Aerial photograph of Type B2 killer whales in the coastal waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. Images obtained from >30m (100ft) above the whales using a small unmanned hexacopter. Research conducted under NMFS Permit No. 19091 and Antarctic Conservation Act Permit ACA 2017-029.

Aerial photograph of Type B2 killer whales in the coastal waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. Images obtained from >30m (100ft) above the whales using a small unmanned hexacopter. Research conducted under NMFS Permit No. 19091 and Antarctic Conservation Act Permit ACA 2017-029.