Updates from our August 2017 Kaua‘i field work

Cascadia Research will be undertaking an 11-day field project off the island of Kaua‘i starting August 4th, 2017. This will be our 15th field project working off Kaua‘i, and our 10th year of working off the island since our first trip here in 2003 (our last field project off Kaua‘i was in February 2016. This project is funded by the U.S. Navy through the Marine Species Monitoring Program and by a NOAA Species Recovery Grant to the State of Hawai‘i.

There are two main objectives of the project. The first is to try to obtain information on movements and behavior of a number of species of toothed whales before, during and after a Navy Submarine Commanders Course, through the deployment of depth-transmitting satellite tags. Such tag deployments give us information on movement patterns as well as exposure and potential responses to mid-frequency active sonar (MFAS). This is a continuation of work we’ve been undertaking the last few years, and reports on MFAS exposure and response of several species of whales and dolphins are available for February 2011 through February 2013 and August 2013 through February 2015. The second main objective is to find and learn more about the endangered main Hawaiian Islands insular population of false killer whales, to help understand seasonal and inter-annual variation in movement patterns. As we do during all of our field projects, we will also be obtaining photos from most species of odontocetes we encounter, to contribute to ongoing studies of residency patterns and social organization and to estimate population sizes, and collecting biopsy samples for toxicology and genetic studies.

Like other projects off Kaua‘i in recent years we expect to have higher encounter rates than normal since we'll be working in collaboration with the Marine Mammal Monitoring on Navy Ranges (M3R) program, using the Navy's hydrophone range off Kaua‘i (see map below) to localize animals. When on the water we will be in constant contact with Navy researchers from the M3R program to help direct us to groups that they are detecting acoustically. This will allow us to confirm the species (to aid in using the acoustic range for research purposes on different species), and should make it much easier for us to find groups of whales and dolphins for tagging, photo-ID and biopsy sampling.

Species that we are hoping to satellite tag include rough-toothed dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, false killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, melon-headed whales, pygmy killer whales, sperm whales, Cuvier's beaked whales, and Blainville's beaked whales.

The research team includes Daniel Webster, Kim Wood, Colin Cornforth, Jonas Webster, Robin Baird, and a number of volunteers.

Check back on August 5th for updates.

The research vessel we’ll be using for this project, a 24’ Hurricane. Photo by Galen Craddock

This map shows our vessel tracklines for three field projects, in February 2015, September 2015, and February 2016.

For updates from our prior field projects check out this page.