VFF: Where are you, and how loud is it there? Visualizing and accounting for spatial uncertainty in behavioral response studies on whales.
Since the mid-1990's a family of cryptic, deep-diving whales known as beaked whales has been stranding in close association with Naval activities that use sonar - a critical weapon in anti-submarine warfare. Beaked whales rely on their hearing for many critical life functions, and extremely loud sounds can have mortal consequences. What is less well known is how individual whales respond to lower levels of sonar, and what these consequences may mean. Currently Duke is co-leading a behavioral response study off Cape Hatteras to determine this dose-response relationship. Here I provide the history, discuss and display the different types of data that we collect and analyze. In particular I focus on the use of satellite tags, which allow researchers to study whales over longer time periods. I will show the methods we have employed to date, including how we visualize and propagate the positional uncertainty and determine the received level. Ultimately we hope our efforts contribute to a better understanding of how marine mammals respond to sound, and how to mitigate against future stranding events.