SR3’s Dr. Holly Fearnbach and colleagues Dr. John Durban (NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center) and Jessica Farrer (SR3) have had a successful start to a new round of fieldwork as part of their long-term project to monitor the health of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales (SRKWs). Similar to previous efforts, an unmanned octocopter drone is being used to non-invasively collect high-resolution aerial images of individual SRKWs to monitor growth and evaluate body condition. In only twelve flights, the team has efficiently collected aerial photogrammetry images of all members of J-pod and all but one member of K pod (38 whales of the total population of 73). Field efforts with continue through the start of October and all images will be analyzed to continue supporting recovery actions aimed at maintaining an adequate food supply.
Another SRKW publication! Holly and colleagues from NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center, the Center for Whale Research and Vancouver Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute recently published a paper in Marine Mammal Science (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mms.12642) presenting a novel statistical analysis to evaluate the utility of aerial photogrammetry metrics for killer whales, with Southern Resident killer whales as a case study. The photogrammetry and data analysis methods presented in this paper will continue to help fill key data gaps of if and when the SRKW population is nutritionally stressed to help inform adaptive management actions.