Current Cascadia Projects


Studies of N Puget Sound gray whales

Cascadia Research has been conducting research on the gray whales that feed each spring in the waters around Whidbey and Camano Islands since 1990 but has recently expanded this work to examine details of their feeding in this region. This study has included deployments of suction cup attached video tags on gray whales in both 2015 and 2016. See Cascadia's Youtube Channel for clips from deployments and from the tags.


SOCAL Behavioral Response Study

Cascadia Research is a leading participant in this collaborative study to examine the behavioral response of cetaceans to Navy mid-frequency sonar from 2010-2015 off southern California. Other principal participants include Southall Environmental Associates, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Duke University, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Naval Undersea Warfare Center. The project is funded by the US Navy. Cascadia is serving as the prime contractor for the study including providing the observers, vessel charters, and small boat operations and tag deployments for the project as well as participating in the analysis and write up of results. See a report on Behavioral Responses of whales to playback of sonar sounds from March 2011. Also see Ocean Mysteries TV show features Cascadia project on Navy sonar and ship strikes, see trailer (first aired 15 Feb 2014).


Hawaiian odontocete stock structure

Collection of identification photographs of false killer whales, bottlenose dolphins, rough-toothed dolphins, melon-headed whales, pygmy killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, dwarf sperm whales, Cuvier's beaked whales and Blainville's beaked whales to examine residency and inter-island movements within the main Hawaiian Islands, collection of skin samples from these species and others to examine genetic structure of the populations, and satellite-tagging of several species, to examine movements, in collaboration with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Wild Whale Research Foundation and Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Supported by the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Naval Postgraduate School (N45), and Wild Whale Research Foundation.


Gulf of Alaska Line-Transect Survey (GOALS)

Researchers from Cascadia, the National Marine Mammal Lab, Biowaves and HDR are conducting a line-transect survey in the Gulf of Alaska from June to July 2013. The primary mission of this project is to determine distribution and abundance of marine mammals within the Gulf of Alaska Navy operating area. This is a follow up a of a 2009 project to determine the occurrence and distribution of marine mammals in and around the Navy training area in the northern Gulf of Alaska, a line-transect visual and acoustic survey was conducted 10-20 April 2009 from the NOAA R/V Oscar Dyson which covered a total of 432 nautical miles (800 km) on-effort and had 96 sightings (453 individuals) of 11 confirmed marine mammal species; these included fin, humpback, gray, and minke whales as well as killer whales, Dallís and harbor porpoise, Pacific white-sided dolphins and Steller sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters.  See NOAA Technical Memorandum on results of the 2009 cruise

Research on blue whales near shipping lanes off southern California

At least five blue whales were killed in fall 2007 as an apparent result of ship strikes in the southern California area. Three of these animals were discovered in the vicinity of the Santa Barbara Channel. This level of mortality was far higher than had been seen in any previous year and if there were additional deaths of animals that did not wash up, could be significant to this endangered species. Cascadia Research in collaboration with Scripps Institution of Oceanography and with the support of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and National Marine Fisheries Service initiated research in 2008 on some of the factors possibly responsible for this mortality. Also see publication on ship strike mortality of whales in the Pacific Northwest.


Large whale surveys off Washington and Oregon

This three-year study began in late 2010 and is being conducted in collaboration with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and is supported by a NOAA program to allow states to gather information on threatened and endangered species. The research will include line-transect surveys three times a year, photographic identification, and satelllite tagging of different listed large whales including humpback, blue, fin, and sperm whales off Washington and Oregon. It will also examine human threats including ship strikes, entanglement, and other fishery interactions. See report on recent sightings of blue whales off Washington during these surveys.


Diving behavior, foraging ecology, and movements of killer whales

This is a collaborative effort with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, using suction-cup attached time-depth recorders, sampling of prey remains, and genetic analyses of fecal samples, to examine the foraging ecology of killer whales, as well as satellite tagging to examine movements and habitat use of mammal-eating killer whales.


Estimating population size, examination of movements, habitat use and behavior of Hawaiian false killer whales

This study involves collection and analyses of photo-identification data to estimate population size and examine social structure, satellite tagging to examine spatial use and movements, and studies of diving behavior and foraging ecology of false killer whales in the main Hawaiian Islands. Funded by the Pacific Islands Fisheries Center, National Marine Fisheries Service.


Population structure and habitat use of fin whales along the west coast

The goals of this study are to better define the stock structure and habitat use of fin whales along the US West Coast and adjacent regions through photo-identification, genetics, and satellite telemetry. Not a stand-alone project, this study incorporates data collection and compilation from a variety of new and historical projects supported by the US Navy, the NMFS/NOAA Southwest region and Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and NMFS/NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center.


Studying the diving behavior of beaked whales and other Hawaiian odontocetes

Originally this work was using time-depth recorders to examine the diving behavior; in recent years we have started using longer-term satellite/dive tags to examine diving behavior of Cuvier's beaked whales, false killer whales, and other species in Hawaiian waters. Supported by the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, the Naval Postgraduate School (N45), and the Wild Whale Research Foundation.


Marine Mammal Studies at SCORE

Collaborative studies of marine mammals in and around the US Navy's Southern California Offshore Range, with an emphasis on beaked and fin whale photo-ID and satellite tagging. New paper on Cuvier's beaked whale diving (26 March 2014)


SPLASH - Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance, and Status of Humpbacks

This international collaborative research effort to study humpback whales in the North Pacific began in 2004. Objectives include determining: 1) abundance of humpback whales for each feeding and wintering area in North Pacific, 2)  trends in population size, 3) the identity and boundaries of feeding areas, especially in previously unstudied areas, 4) population structure and migratory movements, 5) human impacts including entanglement.


Studies of bat behavior in the Pacific Northwest

Using traditional mist-netting and newer  acoustic sampling methods bat life history strategies, roosting and foraging behavior are being examined. A paper on winter feeding activity in western Washington has been published and surveys across Washington statewide are being performed during the summer of 2007 for the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. See also publication of habitat use of bats.


Diving behavior of sperm whales in Alaska

Examine the movements and diving behavior of sperm whales in SE Alaska using suction-cup attached acoustic recording tags and satellite tags as part of the Southeast Alaska Sperm Whale Avoidance Project (SEASWAP) in collaboration with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Alaska Southeast, Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association, Alaska SeaLife Center, NMFS Auke Bay Laboratory, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Funded by North Pacific Research Board and National Geographic Society. Information on the SEASWAP project


Abundance and movements of humpback and blue whales off the U.S. West Coast

On-going long-term monitoring of humpback and blue whales using photographic identification of individual animals to track distribution, movements, abundance, trends, and vital parameters of humpback and blue whales off California, Oregon, and Washington. Primary support from Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA and past support from the National Marine Sanctuary Program as well as private donors. See PDF of publication on humpback and blue whale abundance. New publication on blue whale distribution and movements, April 2009


Underwater behavior of whales with suction-cup attached tags

Deploy several types of suction-cup attached acoustic tags to monitor the dive and vocal behavior of blue and humpback whales. Supported by National Geographic, Office of Naval Research, N45 and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. See PDF of recent article on Crittercam deployments.


Strandings of cetaceans and pinnipeds in Washington State

Long-term monitoring of the incidence of strandings of cetaceans and pinnipeds with an emphasis on large whales in Washington State. Includes active responses and examination of stranded animals and associated data on causes of death, contaminants, pathology, and life history. Funded by NOAA's Prescott Marine Mammal Stranding Grants Program. Publication on mortality of whales in the Pacific Northwest and ship strikes.


Distribution and abundance of marine mammals in the Olympic Coast Sanctuary

Participate in ship surveys and conduct marine mammal photo-identification surveys off the northern Washington and southern British Columbia coast. Conducted for Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA. PDF of publications in Fisheries Bulletin on past surveys.


Abundance and movements of seasonal-resident gray whales in the Pacific Northwest

Conduct surveys and collaborate with other researchers to track the movements and abundance of gray whales using photographic-identification off northern California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Funded by National Marine Mammal Laboratory, NOAA. See New report issued on gray whale photographic identification including whale killed in 2007 (April 2009)


Humpback whale use of Central America as a wintering ground

On-going study of humpback whale use of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and other areas of Central America as a wintering area for both Northern and Southern Hemisphere populations using photographic identification and acoustical monitoring. Supported by Oceanic Society, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Marsila Foundation . See report from 2008 season. Information on research trips to Nicaragua.


Surveys for whales off British Columbia

In collaboration with Department of Fisheries and Oceans conduct surveys with a large vessel for marine mammals off central British Columbia. Includes photo-ID of blue, fin, humpback, gray, sperm, and killer whales conducted with Cascadia RHIB. Supported by private sources and Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans. See findings on recent sightings of blue whales from 2007 trip. Publication in Marine Mammal Science on blue whale sightings and shifts in distribution.


Marine mammal surveys and CalCOFI

Since July 2004, Cascadia Research has conducted visual surveys for marine mammals in quarterly marine mammal surveys with Scripps Institution of Oceanography on the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigation cruises. The CalCOFI cruises were begun in 1949 to monitor the ecological aspects of the sardine population collapse, and since then have continued to study the marine environment off of California. In addition to the valuable oceanography data, the cruises provide an excellent platform for collecting visual and acoustic marine mammal observations in relation to the chemical and physical properties of the California Current System. In the spring of 2004 Melissa Soldevilla, a graduate student of Scripps, began using the CalCOFI vessels as a platform to monitor and record acoustic data of marine mammals encountered along the cruise track using a towed hydrophone. Cascadia observers joined the effort to provide species identification and group size estimates that could be paired with the acoustic data. See map and additional information. See new publication on cetacean distribution and seasonal abundance off S California (26 June 2014).


Visual and acoustic detection of marine mammals off central Washington 

Conduct monthly small boat surveys off the Washington Coast to detect and acoustically record marine mammals year-round in the waters around two autonomous bottom-mounted acoustic recording packages deployed by Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Funded by US Navy initially through the National Marine Mammal Laboratory and then Scripps. Link to PDF of Progress Report on this work. Report on visual and acoustic surveys off Washington released, March 2009


Trends in contaminants in Puget Sound harbor seals

Collaborative project with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Canada’s Institute of Ocean Science to examine trends in contaminants in harbor seals from Puget Sound. Cascadia personnel have monitored trends in contaminants in harbor seals since the mid-1970s. Funded previously by Puget Sound Action Team and U.S. EPA and currently under a NOAA Prescott Marine Mammal Stranding Grant. See New publication on contaminant trends in Puget Sound harbor seals.


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