Electrical and Computer Engineering Seminar Series

Killer whale research for the Ross Sea region MPA


Dr Regina Eisert and Alexa Hasselman


Dr Regina Eisert - Research Scientist, Gateway Antartica, University of Canterbury / Alexa Hasselman - PhD student, Gateway Antarctica and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Canterbury

Time & Place

Fri, 11 May 2018 14:00:00 NZST in Link 309 Lecture Theatre


This talk is about our first successful trial of passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) and multimedia surveillance of Antarctic killer whales in McMurdo Sound, Ross Sea, Antarctica. On December 1, 2017, CCAMLR (the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) established the world's the largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. CCAMLR requires ongoing research to demonstrate that the MPA fulfils its objectives, such as protecting toothfish predators from potential effects of fishing.

Over the 2017/2018 field season, we deployed a series of autonomous recorders on the sea ice in McMurdo Sound, an area used by killer whales and other marine mammals, with the goal of generating baseline information such as presence/absence data, call characterization, and diel movement patterns. We also collected concurrent photo/video, so that we can try to correlate various calls to observed behaviours, individual identity, and group structure. Thus far, we are in the process of surveying the raw data and determining the best methodology for analysing recordings to answer our research objectives. In this talk, we will provide background on the MPA and research objectives, describe equipment and methodology, and discuss possible options for analysis. The results of this study will be used to inform the design of PAM networks in the Ross Sea region MPA and contribute to our understanding of the ecology of key top predators in that ecosystem.