Locating Right Whale Foraging Grounds Using A Glider-Mounted Echosounder
North Atlantic right whales are one of the most critically endangered species of whales, and they are threatened primarily by human interactions in the forms of fishing gear entanglements and boat strikes. These large predators are important members of the oceanic ecosystem, and efforts should be made to protect them. As right whales spend most of their time feeding, identifying the location of their natural foraging grounds is a key element in their conservation. Delphine's project aims to pinpoint such areas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence using mobile undersea gliders.
Underwater gliders are able to function in inclement weather conditions, something that manned vessels are not able to do. These gliders are also ideal candidates for tracking creatures such as whales, as they can collect continuous amounts of data over large areas of the ocean. Underwater microphones attached to the glider can be used to detect right whale calls, while scientific sonar equipment can detect the density of the right whale prey, a specific species of zooplankton, in the water.
Together, these two pieces of equipment can deliver real-time data on the current location of right whale pods and where they are likely to move in the near future, which is important for developing a responsive conservation strategy for these endangered whales. If successful, this same glider setup could be used to monitor other endangered whale species that can be identified by their vocalizations.