Dr. Fearnbach's latest update from Vancouver Island, BC.

Vertical image of Northern Resident killer whales, which will be used to compare their growth and body condition to that of 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 Northern Resident killer whales, which will be used to compare their growth and body condition to that of 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).

SR3’s killer whale expert, Dr. Holly Fearnbach and colleagues Drs. John Durban (NOAA) and Lance Barrett-Lennard (Coastal Ocean Research Institute) just completed their second week of research efforts on Vancouver Island, BC. They had a hugely successful week and flew 76 flights with an unmanned hexacopter (bringing the project total to 128 flights!) to collect vertical images that will assess body condition and health of killer and humpback whales. Over the past two weeks, the team has now photographed 140 individual Northern Resident (fish-eating) killer whales, 15 Bigg’s (mammal-eating) killer whales and nine humpback whales. They have also used the hexacopter to collect six blow samples from humpback whales that will be used in respiratory microbiome studies in collaboration with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Individual health of both killer and humpback whales in this region will be compared within and across years, as well as to other populations such as the endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

Left: vertical image of a humpback whale, which will be used to compare body condition and health for this species in different feeding areas. Right: vertical image of Northern Resident killer whales, which will be used to compare their growth and body condition to that of endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Images collected using an unmanned hexacopter at altitudes 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).

Left: vertical image of a humpback whale, which will be used to compare body condition and health for this species in different feeding areas. Right: vertical image of Northern Resident killer whales, which will be used to compare their growth and body condition to that of endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Images collected using an unmanned hexacopter at altitudes 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).