In the winter of 2010/ 2011 researcher Hans Verdaat from IMARES on Texel participated in an Antarctic expedition for the German institute Forschungs- und Technologiezentrum Westküste (FTZ). On board the icebreaker Polarstern (AWI) research has been done into the distribution, density and abundance of whales and dolphins in the Southern Ocean.
Knowledge on distribution, density and abundance of cetaceans in the Southern Ocean is rather limited. Especially in pack-ice regions little research has been conducted as only few vessels can penetrate into the ice.
By means of a dedicated cetacean sighting survey following standard line-transect distance sampling methodology, the project aimed to contribute to solid base line data on cetacean occurrence and abundance, needed by decision makers for management and protection. In addition behavioural observations investigated response behaviour of cetaceans towards vessels in Antarctic waters.
Shipboard and aerial cetacean sighting surveys have been conducted whenever sighting and weather conditions permit. For the shipboard survey the observation platform was the crow’s nest and the survey took place along the cruise track of RV Polarstern. The aerial surveys were conducted by helicopter in order to survey areas away from the ship. In addition to the distance sampling survey some tracking from the crow’s nest has been conducted, i.e. following detected (groups of) animals with powerful binoculars („Big Eyes“), noting down their track as long as possible. This formed a means to evaluate cetacean behaviour, for example in response to the ship.
The data have been used for population assessment of cetaceans in Antarctic waters. Along with distributional analyses of species occurrence, distance sampling evaluation contributes to abundance estimation of species, e.g. the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonarensis), which is still being hunted. The tracking data were not only used for behavioural studies, but also for a comparison with infrared cetacean detection data collected by the MAPS project during the expedition.
The research team consisted of: Linn Sophia Lehnert, Hans Verdaat, Denise Risch, Carsten Rocholl.
The expedition 2010/ 2011 continued the work that was done on an expedition in the winter of 2008/2009 where the IMARES researchers Meike Scheidat and Hans Verdaat participated.
The research team:
Linn Sophia Lehnert, Hans Verdaat, Denise Risch, Carsten Rocholl.