Final update from Vancouver Island from Dr. Fearnbach and colleagues.

SR3’s killer whale expert, Dr. Holly Fearnbach and her colleagues Drs. John Durban (NOAA) and Lance Barrett-Lennard (Coastal Ocean Research Institute) just finished their research effort on Vancouver Island, BC. The team flew an unmanned hexacopter for a total of 169 flights to collect high resolution vertical images that will be analyzed to assess individual health of both killer and humpback whales. They successfully photographed 150 different Northern Resident (fish-eating) killer whales (more than half the population), 15 Bigg’s (mammal-eating) killer whales and 15 humpback whales. They also used the hexacopter to collect 10 blow samples from humpback whales that will be used in respiratory microbiome studies in collaboration with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

This project was a huge success and now the team moves to San Juan Island for a 3-week health assessment of the endangered population of Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW). This will be their second effort on SRKW in 2017 and will build upon six previous efforts in five different years dating back to 2008.

Vertical image of the A30s and I4s from the Northern Resident killer whale population. These whales are some of the 45 individuals that have been photographed in all four years of the study. Individual condition will be compared across and between years, as well to individuals from the endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Image collected using an unmanned hexacopter at altitude of >100ft above the whales, permitted in Canada under the Species at Risk Act (Marine Mammal License 18) and flight authorizations from Transport Canada (SFOC # 13026742).

Vertical image of the A30s and I4s from the Northern Resident killer whale population. These whales are some of the 45 individuals that have been photographed in all four years of the study. Individual condition will be compared across and between years, as well to individuals from the endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Image collected using an unmanned hexacopter at altitude of >100ft above the whales, permitted in Canada under the Species at Risk Act (Marine Mammal License 18) and flight authorizations from Transport Canada (SFOC # 13026742).