RAPID: Linking the Movement Patterns and Foraging Behavior of Humpback Whales to their Prey across Multiple Spatial Scales within the LTER Study Region
Whales play a central role in the ecology and biogeochemistry of the Southern Ocean. However, little is known regarding their distribution and behavior, in part because of challenges associated with studying these organisms from large research vessels. This research will take advantage of the unique opportunity presented by the 2012-2013 test run of the smaller, more mobile R/V Point Sur. This work will use the Point Sur to investigate humpback whales in the waters studied by the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Station off the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). Employing a combination of long-term satellite-linked tags and short-term suction cup tags, researchers will investigate the distribution, abundance and foraging behaviors of whales in this region. Whale biogeography will then be related to quantitative surveys of krill, their primary food source. Hypotheses regarding whale distribution and foraging strategies as well as physical oceanographic features will be tested. The WAP is undergoing some of the most dramatic warming on the planet, and a better understanding of the ecology of top predators is central to developing an understanding of the impacts of this change. Results will be widely disseminated through publications as well as through presentations at national and international meetings. In addition, raw data will be made available through open-access databases. Finally, this work will be coordinated with the extensive infrastructure of the Palmer LTER site, enabling outreach and educational activities.
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