Riveting Reads.

 

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New calf J54 frolicking ©Dave Ellifrit, the Center for Whale Research via Puget Sound Express

A weekly post of riveting reads from my travels around the internet this week! A selection of links, blogs, news articles, scholarly articles and images I am currently loving.

More Sperm Whale Strandings: A total of 30 have now stranded across the UK, The Netherlands and Germany. Scientists at ZSL are at work to see if they can discover why.

Polar Bear Fitness Tracking: Female polar bears wore tracking devices to understand their movements and energy demands. Thinning and retreating sea ice is leading to bears needing to expend more energy to find food.

Southern Resident Killer Whales Baby Boom: Biggest boom since 1977, seen nine new calves since December 2014 and this January however, the sex ratio is inordinately biased towards males. We do not know why.

Le Sigh: Sighing is good for you! Without it your alveoli can collapse and struggle to reinflate themselves. You need to sigh roughly every five minutes (don’t worry it is involuntary!). See a video of Professor Jack Feldman of the University of California, whose team made the discovery, discussing it here.

What have you been reading this week? Let me know in the comments below.


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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Riveting Reads.

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A (sometimes) weekly post of riveting reads from my travels around the internet this week! A selection of links, blogs, news articles, scholarly articles and images I am currently loving.

Researches delve into the nuances of sperm whale vocalisations: The scientists findings show cultural transmission of the vocalisations through generations are key and suggest evidence of human-like complex culture and multi-level social structures in sperm whale clans.

Birds reveal the evolutionary importance of love: When birds choose their own mate they have 37% more reproductive success than when they have their mate chosen by scientists. There is also a GrrlScientist write up on it here.

Shark alarm in Perth: Curtin University (where I am visiting) and Mullaloo Surf Life Saving Club have joined together to create BeachLAB. The alert system works by recognising marine animals there were previously tagged with acoustic tags and are travelling though the area. See a video about it here.

If we burn all fossils fuels we are in for dire sea level rises: A new paper indicates that if we burn them all the rise could be as much as 60 meters over the next 1000+ years but even over the short term of 100 years we could see a 3 meters increase.

A bad year ahead for coral bleaching in Hawaii: With warmer than normal temperatures around Hawaii set to continue this year the coral will not have time to recover from last years bleaching event.

Last but not least a little self plug: My first paper came out last week and is on the vocalisations of killer whales in the Bremer Canyon, Western Australia. Please have a read!

What have you been reading this week? Let me know in the comments below.


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!

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

A Contrasting Orca Adventure.

I have been thinking a lot about writing the post and talking about my time on my second killer whale field season in 2015. It was not the season I had hoped for but it was a season where I learnt a lot about how I would proceed next and what I would do differently and that has to count for something during a period when I am lucky enough to have the time to use to learn and grow as a researcher.

As a preliminary fieldwork season I had more freedom but minimal funds compared to my time in the Bremer Canyon. Due to this I was not able to conduct and complete research in an order and manner to which I have become accustomed to. We were very lucky to have many generous people supporting our research in non-monetary ways such as providing accommodation and boat time which made the limited funds less of a pressing issue. It especially was nice to have a roof over my head after a day on the water. I guess this is all a factor of doing science research at a time when funds for research are minimal and reducing rather than increasing for many areas in particular environmental and conservation research.

Augie.

Augie – the young male killer whale making a beeline for our vessel. ©Leila Fouda

I will forever call this a reconnaissance field season. I now know the region and the local community a lot better, I have a feel for the research site, and through conversations have built up a better network, I have some idea of how the animals like to move in and out of the area from talking to other researchers and I also know that the end of July and beginning of August is much too late in the season to be looking for killer whales in order to collect consistent and robust sightings data.

We were lucky to have one spectacular encounter where we observed a pod of killer whales attempt to predate on a humpback calf in a mum/calf pair over close an hour period. The pod were inquisitive and milling around before hand with several whale shark boats watching from a respectable distance and then there was an almost instant perceptible shift in the animal’s behaviour as (can only be assumed) the pod detected the humpback whale duo and shifted their focus to “predation mode” and went off in pursuit of their prey.

Across the encounter the pod of four killer whales attempted to separate the calf from its mother,  and we were lucky to see the known young male killer whale – Augie – in the pod breach during the action. After 40 minutes though the action came to an abrupt end, from its intensity we were sure the killer whales had been successful in their predation attempt and that the mother humpback would be continuing north alone however, from further investigation by another small vessel it was found that this time the mother humpback had won the “Mum Of The Day” award and was escorting her calf north without any major physical injuries to be seen. The killer whale pod then headed south after this in search of other prey.

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Humpback and killer whale during the predation event. ©Leila Fouda

It was interesting to note that most people on the boats fell into either Team Orca or Team Humpback in regards to who they were “routing for” in the outcome. Maybe next year we will all have t-shirts. It was fascinating to get to see the killer whales involved in this behaviour as predations events were a much rarer occurrence in the Bremer Canyon.

I am excited to see what next year hold when I can have a longer field season in Exmouth and really get to discover more of the secrets of this killer whale population.


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