It’s A Killer Whale World Out There!

Wow, Wow, Wow! It has been a busy few weeks since I arrive in Perth. First it was non-stop preparing equipment and organising ourselves and then it was diving head first into Bremer Bay life and data collection. We arrived in Bremer Bay in Western Australia on the 8th February and were out on the water 7.30 am on the 9th.

We are here to collect data on this unique aggregation of killer whales (Orcinus orca) that occurs every year between January and March a 2 hour steam offshore from Bremer Bay where the water depth drops quickly from around 80 metres to over 800 metres and deeper. Here there are numerous underwater canyons where the depth can reach 3000 metres or more.

Now back to the cetaceans…So very little is known about the Australian killer whale population and we hope to be able to change this by building up a picture of where they are, and what they are doing, while also deciphering the individuals we are seeing through fin identification and using hydrophones to determine their acoustic repertoire. It is an amazing project.

Killer_Whale_090215_Bremer

On the 10th February we deployed two noise loggers which, are long term underwater recording devices that record on a schedule and allow us to build a picture of what is happening when we are not there through the acoustics of the region. From these we will be able to build a picture of natural ocean noise such as waves, wind and, marine mammals as well as anthropogenic noise from boats and far off seismic activity.

Alongside, the data collection on marine mammals we also plan to use a mounted sonar to record the biomass in the region especially when marine mammals are feeding and a CDT (Conductivity, Depth and Temperature) instrument to record salinity, depth, temperature as well as fluorescence to gain a better understanding of what makes the ecosystem work. Further, to all this amazing equipment we have also had sonobuoys donated to us by L3 which, will allow us to passively and in real-time monitor the acoustic environment while we are at sea. This will in theory enable us to hear what is happening underwater while we see what is happening above water and potentially determine what we are missing as well as what is happening (acoustically) up to 5 km away.

Killer_Whale_120215_Bremer

We are only just getting started on this project but, from it I hope to be able to build up a PhD thesis that I can really get excited about. Alongside killer whales there have been sightings of beaked whales, sperm whales and pilot whales in pervious seasons. Just yesterday we spotted a pod of between 20 and 30 long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) where it looked like the sea was bubbling with activity. I cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Long finned pilot whales

A bubbling sea of long finned pilot whales.

We had a windy day off today where we tried to catch up on some data, visited the beautiful remote beaches of Western Australia and do all our laundry which, was nice especially as we don’t know when we might get another day for data catch up!

I will try and upload some video footage and updates from the field as our crazy hectic time here in Bremer Bay flies back.

Many thanks to Naturaliste Charters and Riggs Australia for contributing to our research and allowing us space on their vessels.


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!

Hello 2015! What An Exciting Year I Hope You Will Be!

Welcome back to Deep Blue Conversations! I hope you all had an relaxing holiday break and have already dived back head first into the New Year!

My New Year started of much more leisurely with a tour around Scotland with my boyfriend before he had to head off back to work and I had to start getting ready for……

*DRUM ROLL PLEASE*….

Australia From Space.

Yes…AUSTRALIA! Western Australia (WA) to be exact.

I won a grant alongside a leading colleague who I hope will be my supervisor one day. This grant will allow us to collect data (acoustic, photo-ID, behavioural) on killer whales (Orcinus orca) alongside other large predators, and cetaceans in the Bremer Canyon, over a four week period.

Bremer Bay. The gateway to the Bremer Canyon!

Bremer Bay. The gateway to the Bremer Canyon!

I am so unbelievably excited, I can’t believe how lucky I am to be able to collect data on a project I believe in and have helped to create. This year I hope will be amazing; I will improve my skill set, aim to get some papers under my belt (tea dress), and apply for more funding and scholarships (as a more qualified researcher) to do a PhD!!

I will aim to maintain one to two posts a week on here to update you all on how our research is going, the data we are collecting and methods as well as how I am faring in the Australian heat!!

I fly to Australia on Monday evening and ,20 hours and 20 minutes later, I will arrive in Perth, WA!

Watch Out 2015, Here We Gooooo!

Killer whale in the Bremer Canyon. Image: http://www.whales-australia.com.au

Killer whale in the Bremer Canyon. Image: http://www.whales-australia.com.au


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!

How Do You Find Focus?

A little change of pace with this post as I reach out to you. Yes You, out there!

How do you find focus and keep it? What do you do in order to keep going on one topic for hours? Especially in this world of continuous bombardment from social media, 24 hour news and a growing inability to “switch off” from everything.

You all know I love what I do as a career. I do however find it a struggle to focus sometimes. Some days I find it so hard to keep my focus on the task at hand even when I am so interested in the topic. Other times I do just fine and at crutch time there is no stopping me. However, I wish I had that momentum every day…maybe that is quite a BIG ask! I do hate being disappointed in myself and am probably pretty hard on myself too.

So What Helps You?

Running/Exercise?

A run in the morning use to help me I think or it was a placebo effect of thinking it would help so it helped…Buuuuut at the moment my ankles are not a fan of the whole running thing (Doctors appointment to be booked!) but, I think there is a chance that I am actually missing it! Do you run or do other workouts that keep you going and help you focus?

Morning Run - Feels good, helps you focus?

Morning Run – Feels good, helps you focus?

What about a good snack?

I know that having nibbles and making sure that I don’t get hungry (HANGRY!) is key to keeping going! However, sitting and eating all day somedays isn’t the healthiest (will need to get on that running again!) even if I do try to choose healthy snacks sometimes it is hard to resist…:

Not the healthier choice this one but they sure were yummy!

Not the healthier choice this one but they sure were yummy!

Little Tipple?

What about when you work late into the evening? Do you find a little tipple helps of hinders? DIVE IN DEEPER HERE

My Conservation Careers Interview

Back in December 2013 I as approached my Nick Askew of Conservation Careers website. He asked if I would be willing to share my conservation career story for his growing career information website. Of course, I agreed as I am happy to get my story out there and hope it helps other who are starting out in this field or who think it may be the one for them.

That's me looking pretty snazzy!It was really great to talk about what I have done so far in my short career, how I started out, and to share advice as well as any difficulties I have come across while I have worked to grow as a scientist. I did this with the hope that it can help and inspire budding marine biologists and conservation scientists in the world.

You can read my full interview here → How To Start Out In Marine Biology?

My big piece of advice that I gave and stand by is this:

DIVE IN DEEPER HERE