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Brief Report for the Iceland Orca Fieldwork

2009.08.13(15:53) 189

The killer whale acoustic project in Iceland (Vestmannaeyjar) has three main objectives: 1) to study in detail the underwater behavior and communication of killer whales by deploying D-tags and camera loggers, with a focus on their feeding behavior; 2) to conduct playback experiments of natural sounds to tagged killer whales and track their movements in response to the playback stimuli; and 3) to collect acoustic recordings simultaneously with behavioral observations.
The Project was start from 1st to 31th July (I joined from 14th to 31th July). The study area was coastal water around the Westmann Islands, Iceland. Collaborating organizations were the Sea Mammal Research Unit (University of St Andrews), the University of Tokyo and the University of Iceland, and total 15 participants were involved.
Daily work plan was follow; Whenever the weather allows all boats (the observation boat and two tag boats) went out to find the group of whales. All boats left from Heimaey (main Island) harbor and search effort can either be split into the West and East side of the island. Once a group of killer whale was found, we switched to collect acoustic recording with the vertical hydrophone array and the high frequency array, and conducted simultaneous behavior observations and photo-ID, as much as possible. Once a tag (D-tag or Camera-tag) was on, we switched to tracking the animal with the help of VHF signal indicator. We collected detailed data on the tagged whale’s movements and behavior with the help of software Logger onto the computer. During this tracking phase we also made acoustic recordings from the observation boat using a towed hydrophone array. We also attempted to conduct playbacks of natural sounds and for that one of the tag boats became the playback source, travelling to a previously defined location about 1 nautical mile away and started playback while the observation team tracks the tagged whales.
As the results we went out to the sea more than 20 days and got a great deal of acoustic and behavioral, and photographic data, with success in tagging for 7 whales. Data analyses will be conducted mainly by members in St Andrews. Our data will show the natural behavior and acoustic repertoires of Icelandic killer whales, which may be different compared to the well-known population in British Columbia and Norway. However, to figure out the number of individuals and social structure and life-cycle of Icelandic whales, the continuous data accumulations of photo-ID and behavior must be inevitable. Therefore, this project will be continued for three years.
I have been contributed in behavioral observations and photo-ID, as well as help in acoustic data collections. The whale work with acoustic data will give me some ideas for applying in the bats acoustic studies. I want to analyze the data of echolocation clicks sound extracted by D-tag and high frequency array as a collaborative study with Patrick Miller (Univ. of St Andrews).


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