My First Paper.

Just like the first day of school and the first piece of art you bring home, your first paper as a scientist is a pretty big deal and I am super excited about mine. This paper will always be very special to me as it is the first piece of work that I a fully sending out into the world with my colleagues to be continually and forever more judged by my peers.

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Ta-Dah!

This paper is also from a project exceedingly close to my heart it is a topic that I have been interested in for a long time and the road to its completion was not always smooth but what is life without a challenge and out of it has come a piece of work that myself and my colleagues are exceptionally proud of.

The paper is:

Wellard, R., Erbe, C., Fouda, L., Blewitt, M., (2015), Vocalisation of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the Bremer Canyon, Western Australia. PLoS ONE 10(9)

It is the result of two years of data collection to look at the different vocalisations produced by the killer whale population in the Bremer Canyon, Western Australia. My involvement was full time in the second year, where I was involved in data collection, data analysis and manuscript preparation.

What did we see I hear you wondering out loud…? Well we used K-Means clustering analysis to group the calls into categories with the most similar acoustic features. We looked at whistles (frequency modulated, tonal sounds, with or without harmonic overtones) and burst pulses (consist of rapidly repeated pulses with inter-pulse intervals shorter than in echolocation click trains). We did also detect clicks while collecting data however they were not a focus of this paper. Through the analysis the calls have been separated into nine different Bremer Canyon call groups four for whistles, three for burst pulses, one for whistles that are pulsed in the middle, and the final group consists of burst pulse to whistle transitions and vice versa.

This paper is unique in that it is the first paper to describe the vocalisation of killer whales in Australia. The vocalisations are the topic of my colleague Bec Wellard’s PhD and there will, I am sure, be many more exciting developments to come in the realm of Australian killer whale acoustics. My focus is now shifting more in the direction of ecology, population studies and conservation so keep your eyes peeled to see what comes with that.

Some of the Bremer Canyon Killer Whales. ©Leila Fouda

Some of the Bremer Canyon Killer Whales. ©Leila Fouda

How did you feel after your first paper was published? Did you keep a close eye on citation indexes and metrics? Was it a thrill or a relief once the paper was submitted and accepted?

I know I am definitely looking forward to working fully on my next paper now!


You can also follow along on the Deep Blue Conversations Facebook Page. I post interesting articles related to marine conservation, share awesome stories as well as photos from the marine conservation and environmental world in general. Come on over and have a look! I also have Twitter come and join the conversation you can find me as @Leila_Lula
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Accidental Whale Portraits And Soundtraps!

We have had some pretty good whale days over the last week. Alongside getting fin shots I have also once or twice lucked out and managed to get some beautiful whale shots as they have surfaced to breathe. Two of my favourites are below. It was pure luck that I managed to get the images in such clear focus that they almost don’t look real. The moment frozen in time with the tidal wave of water is pretty awe worthy I think!

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Soundtrap

SoundTrap by Ocean Instruments New Zealand. Image: Ocean Instruments New Zealand

Alongside photo-id images we are trying to gather acoustic recordings. A new tool which we have been using for that this week is a soundtrap.This is an autonomous underwater recording device that we have rigged up to allow us to tow it behind the vessel when we move at slow speeds. This is in a new attempt to get recordings of the killer whales acoustically communicating without having to stop the vessel. We are excited to listen to and view our recordings to see if we have picked up any calls. So far it seems that flow (water) and engine noise are at a minimum when recording in out current set up which is very good news for picking up biological sounds.

I’ll leave you with one final image that is a later image from a different individual of the same pod during the same surfacing This individual looks like they are wearing a bubble mask!

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Many thanks to Naturaliste Charters and Riggs Australia for allowing us space on their vessels. Further thanks to the Centre for Marine Science and Technology at Curtin University for equipment loan and support.


You can also follow along on the Deep Blue Conversations Facebook Page. I post interesting articles related to marine conservation, share awesome stories as well as photos from the marine conservation and environmental world in general. Come on over and have a look!