Foraging Ecology of Marine Mammals in Monterey Bay

 

As top predators, understanding the foraging behavior of whales can greatly inform our knowledge of the health of our oceans.  The goals or our Monterey Bay whale research program are to (1) better understand how baleen whales utilize the vast resources in Monterey Bay, and (2) how the oceanography of Monterey Bay makes it an ideal foraging ground for the world’s largest animals.  We use a suite of novel tagging and recording techniques to study whale foraging behavior and collaborate with researchers from other local institutions and the whale-watching community.

 

Humpback whales take the gulp!

Humpback whales can fit 70% of their body weight in water in one giant mouthful! 

In order to study the lives and habits of whales that spend over 95% of their time below the surface requires the use of novel tags and environmental sensing tools.  Our team uses a combination of multi-sensor recording tags and passive acoustic recorders to shed light on the behavior of whales in Monterey Bay.  Our tags are designed to provide us with unique data and video, from the whale’s perspective, on how they maneuver and forage.  Acoustic recording devices can inform us as to the relative abundance and diversity of marine mammals inhabiting Monterey Bay throughout different times of the year.  In order to truly understand why whales are present, we collaborate with oceanographers, marine scientists, and naturalists from a number of local institutions, government agencies, and the whale-watching community to help provide context as to the conditions that are necessary to support whales and other marine mammals.  This multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the processes and features of Monterey Bay that promote whales to be able to thrive is a foundational goal of COA.

Reaching for gold!

By placing suction cup tags on whales, we learn about where they go,  how deep they dive, and what they spend their time doing.