Today marked the start of our second field phase of SOCAL-14. We are fortunate to have two full weeks of field effort to find, follow, tag, and study the behavior of different cetacean species in the beautiful Channel Islands off Southern California. For those of you who are not familiar with the project, it’s goals, and our work to date, please link over to the project website, which is <www.socal-brs.org>. There is a drop-down menu for each of our field campaigns, links to published papers, and for our current field effort a simply worded public summary <https://secureservercdn.net/126.96.36.199/h4h.b84.myftpupload.com/assets/pdf/SOCAL14_summary.pdf>. The overall goal is to safely and carefully study the behavioral responses of specific cetaceans to human sounds, including Navy mid-frequency sonar, to inform predictions of potential impact and mitigation measures to reduce them. As many people have inquired, we are been affected by the current tropical storm spinning off the Pacific coast, but just barely with a little bump of south swell that rolled us a little more than usual today. It rained a little as well which was both a little odd for late summer here and kind of welcome with the drought out here. But neither were any real impediment to efforts closer to the mainland and we found a number of blue whales and a few humpbacks near the Palos Verdes peninsula west of LA. One blue whale was tagged and a full experimental sequence with active imaging of prey fields accomplished as a way of understanding the experimental context for the animal. This archival movement and listening tag (see the above summary for more details) gathered 8.5 hours of high resolution data before, during, and after the experiment today and was retrieved just before a nice sunset. A picture of the whale with Palos Verdes in the background (below: taken under NMFS permit #14534-2, credit J. Calambokidis) shows the gold recording tag attached with suction cups riding on the animal.
Tomorrow we aim to push further offshore in search of beaked whales and Risso’s dolphins. Our colleagues on the R/V Baylis (joining us for this phase of the field effort) will be towing listening hydrophones in one of the deep-water basins to the west helping us listen for and locate these clicking toothed cetaceans to attach similar tags. We will try and update this blog daily or as regularly as we have internet access while in the field. For any specific questions about the project, please feel free to contact either the SOCAL-BRS project manager and field lead John Calambokidis <Calambokidis@cascadiaresearch.org> or the project chief scientist <Brandon.Southall@sea-inc.net> and we will respond as we are able.