Grant programs

The Australian Marine Mammal Centre (AMMC) Grants Program, which commenced in 2008, has funded projects for research activities that use non-lethal techniques to improve the conservation of marine mammals through improved management of human and marine mammal interactions.

The research addresses key knowledge gaps including better understanding of the population structure, distribution and abundance of marine mammal populations, and the nature and extent of the threats they face.

The AMMC Grant Program has allocated $9,179,196 to 95 projects: These projects include:

  • 14 projects ($1,238,124) on dugongs;
  • 15 ($1,128,218) on seals and sea lions;
  • 44 ($3,542,508) on whales;
  • 12 ($1,525,731) on dolphins;
  • other projects on technique development and data analysis;

Unfortunately, no funding is available for a 2015 grants round.

Previously funded AMMC Grant projects & reports

Project
Year Number Title (Click title to show the public summary) Investigator(s) Total GST excl. Species group Order Final
report
2013 13/28 Abundance estimates of the east Australian humpback whale population: 2014 survey
  • Dunlop, Dr Rebecca (CI)
  • Noad, Assoc. Prof. Michael
$$85,971.00 Whales Cetacean
2013 13/1 Monitoring Population Dynamics of Right whales off Southern Australia
The project continues a long-term monitoring study since 1993 to obtain counts and individual identification photographs of right whales visiting the southern Australian coast between C Leeuwin WA and Ceduna SA. The results provide continuing evidence of the population’s recovery from extreme reduction and likely trajectory towards original population size, and should in due course enable detection of possible linkages between population dynamics and environmental events. A project to design a long-term monitoring strategy for this population funded by AMMC (09/41, Bannister et al 2011), recommended continuation of such surveys, which have been consequently again been undertaken annually since 2011.
  • Bannister, Mr John (CI)
$$40,728.92 Whales Cetacean
2013 13/4 ARWPIC Data Migration
The ARWPIC Data Migration project will populate the Australasian Right Whale Photo-Identification Catalogue with existing long-term data, launching an integration platform for Australasian datasets. Profiles of some 2100 whales, 3500 sightings and 10,000 supporting images will be added to the ARWPIC online portal. This establishes the first platform in the southern hemisphere for researchers to conveniently share such data, and sets the scene for other data to be added over time. Photo-identification data contributes to management and conservation by enabling analyses of population parameters, habitat use, movement and migration patterns, threat exposure risk, health indices and population estimates.
  • Pirzl, Dr Rebecca (CI)
  • Mr Andy Townsend; Mr Kieran Lawton
$99,091.00 Whales Cetacean
2013 13/6 Quantification of the Sharing and Consumption of Dugong and Turtle Meat
This project will expedite the publication AMMC-funded research on ‘The Sharing and Consumption of Dugong Meat outside the Torres Strait’ in the international peer-reviewed literature. The peer review process will ensure rigorous scientific scrutiny of our research findings. It will further add value to the original research contributing to management planning and policy analysis. The findings suggest that a sustainability agenda can be pursued by the Diaspora in the management of dugong and turtle harvesting. The heightened political and public interest surrounding traditional marine hunting requires relevant research to have the credibility of publication in the international peer-reviewed literature.
  • Watkin Lui, Dr Felecia; Marsh, Prof Helene (CI)
  • Prof Natalie Stoeckl
$31,609.00 Dugong Sirenian
2013 13/16 Broad-scale habitat interactions of pygmy blue whales off southern Australia
Two research papers will investigate relationships between pygmy blue whales (PBWs) and foraging habitat in a productive southern Australian upwelling system. Paper 1 will correlate PBW relative abundance from aerial surveys over seven years with variable upwelling intensity. Paper 2 will provide better knowledge of the fine-scale movement and feeding responses of PBWs in relation to their habitat (including prey). This work will provide insights into the climate and ocean processes shaping patterns of blue whale and prey occurrence. This knowledge is important for understanding PBW habitat use and the potential implications of changing climate and human interactions.
  • Gill, Dr Peter; Morrice, Ms Margie (CI)
  • Dr Rebecca Pirzl; Dr Alecia Bellgrove; Dr Andrew Levings; Mr John Calambokidis; Dr Jane McKenzie
$56,600.00 Whales Cetacean
2013 13/22 Distribution and abundance estimate of Australian snubfin dolphins (Orcaella heinsohni) at a key site in the Kimberley region, Western Australia
From 2004 to 2012, boat-based transects, photo-identification and opportunistic sighting data was recorded for the Australian snubfin Orcaella heinsohni in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The three data sets comprise the only data available for the species at a number of locations in this remote region. The project aims to 1) analyse the 6 year line-transect and photo-identification dataset to produce the first abundance estimates for the species at one site in the Kimberley; and 2) collate the opportunistic & dedicated survey sightings data to provide the first baseline information on the distribution of the species across the region and identify potential key sites that will inform the conservation management of the species in Western Australia.
  • Thiele, Dr Deborah; Waples, Dr Kelly (CI)
  • Dr Holly Raudino; Mr Phil Bouchet; Prof Lyndon Brooks; Ms Marguerite Tarzia
$46,162.00 Dolphins Cetacean
2013 13/24 Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to survey marine mammals: manual detection of dugongs in images to allow validation of alternative detection methods
This research will contribute towards further developing methods for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) marine mammal surveys. UAV surveys generate many thousands of still images that require processing post-survey to record marine mammal detections. Two methods are being developed to process images: automated image analysis software (FaunaFinder) and crowd sourcing (engaging the general public to review images). Our objectives are to (a) manually review a subset of UAV images, and (b) use these images to validate FaunaFinder and crowd sourcing methods. Our third objective is to map dugong sightings within images in preparation for direct comparisons between manned and unmanned survey sightings.
  • Hodgson, Dr Amanda; Smith, Dr Joshua (CI)
  • Dr Luis Mejias; Dr Frederic Maire
$53,623.00 Dugong Sirenian
2013 13/25 Looking for Mutjalanydjal (Dolphins) and Galangami (Dugongs) in Dhimurru Sea Country, Arnhem Land – Development of a standardised survey methodology for Indigenous Ranger groups to monitor inshore dolphins and dugongs in northern Australia
Australian snubfin and humpback dolphins occur in small populations in northern Australian coastal waters. Both species are susceptible to human activities, and there is significant concern about their viability. Remote regions of northern Australia are potentially important habitats for both species but information on their occurrence is limited. This project aims to collaborate with the Dhimurru Rangers to 1. contribute to a regional assessment of inshore dolphins in east Arnhem Land, and 2. develop survey methodologies applicable to other ranger groups. This project will contribute towards a national assessment of inshore dolphins, and towards Dhimurru’s sea country planning and management.
  • Beasley, Dr Isabel; Drysdale, Ms Vanessa (CI)
$58,200.00 Dolphins Cetacean
2013 13/26 Developing an integrated publically-accessible online database for the 30 year time series of dugong aerial survey data
This project will develop an integrated database of spatial data and population size estimates from aerial surveys for dugongs conducted since 1984 in nine regions across Australia. The database will be made accessible to the general community via an open access online data hub based at James Cook University, and integrated into other knowledge repositories, such as the AMMC and SPRAT databases. The database will facilitate future collaborations and accommodate efficient incorporation of new research findings. Information on dugong distribution, habitat use and relative abundance will be easily accessible to managers and other stakeholders for their long-term use.
  • Sobtzick Dr Susan; Marsh, Prof Helene (CI)
  • Ms Marianne Brown
$53,183.00 Dugong Sirenian
2013 13/29 Assessment of Numbers and Distribution of Southern Right Whales in South-east Australia – Year 2
There are no accurate abundance or trend estimates available for the south-east Australian southern right whale. We are replicating methodology used in south-west Australia to conduct aerial surveys from Ceduna to Sydney (including Tasmania) for a minimum of three years, to obtain a snapshot of population size and gain insights into possible emerging areas of importance across the region. The results of this project will aid in determining the need for and design of a longer term survey plan for the region. This project directly implements a Very High Priority Action in the Draft Conservation Management Plan for the Southern Right Whale 2011 – 2016.
  • Watson, Ms Mandy; Westhorpe, Mr Ian (CI)
  • Dr Robert Harcourt; Mr John Bannister
$98,163.89 Whales Cetacean
2013 13/31 Improving the time series of estimates of dugong abundance and distribution by incorporating revised availability bias corrections
The availability of dugongs for detection by aerial observers is influenced by sighting conditions (e.g. turbidity, and sea state), and dugong diving behaviour, which varies with water depth. Availability Correction Factors have recently been greatly improved by analysing dive records collected from satellite-tracked dugongs using new statistical models. We will use these improved techniques to reanalyse dugong abundance estimates from archival aerial survey data from Queensland to provide more accurate estimates of dugong population size and spatially-explicit models of dugong distribution and relative density to inform dugong management, especially the management of Indigenous hunting, a Ministerial priority.
  • Marsh, Prof Helene; Grech, Dr Alana (CI)
  • Dr Susan Sobtzick; Ms Rie Hagihara; Prof Rhondda Jones; Prof Ken Pollock
$100,836.00 Dugong Sirenian
2013 13/34 Consolidation and cataloguing of DPIPWE’s cetacean biological sample collection
DPIPWE holds a large collection of cetacean biological samples (>2000 unique samples typically sourced from stranded animals, including over 20 species). Current resourcing limits our ability to comprehensively curate and catalogue these samples. We seek funds for the capacity to systematically: • verify the status of samples; • improve storage of samples and sub-sample where appropriate; • update associated meta-data and make summaries of the collection available via the ALA and AMMC databases. This will facilitate access by the research community, helping to maximise the value of the collection as well as improving efficiencies by potentially minimising unnecessary future sampling of live individuals or destructive sampling.
  • Alderman, Dr Rachael (CI)
  • Mr Kris Carlyon
$47,681.00 Whales and dolphins Cetacean
2013 13/35 Urban Waterways and Coastal Dolphins: Health and Status of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins in Moreton Bay, Queensland
Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins are a conservation priority both in Australia and abroad, with small fragmented populations in shallow inshore environments. The population in Moreton Bay occurs adjacent to a major city, has not been quantitatively assessed for 27 years and has had elevated mortality rates since 2011. We will use an integrated approach including field surveys, necropsies, toxicology and historical data to (a) examine the abundance and viability of this important population, and (b) evaluate risks from potential anthropogenic threats. Identified threats will then be spatially modelled within a risk-assessment framework to identify areas where management action may be required.
  • Meager, Dr Justin; Hawkins, Dr Elizabeth (CI)
  • Dr David Blyde; A/Prof Caroline Gaus; Dr Duan March; Dr Ina Ansmann; Lyndon Brooks; Dr Guido Parra
$99,332.00 Dolphins Cetacean
2013 13/36 Spatial ecology, migratory paths and critical areas of habitat use of Australia’s dwarf minke whales
The dwarf minke whale appears on the Great Barrier Reef for a few short weeks every winter, presenting spectacular wildlife encounters and enabling a valuable tourism opportunity, but little is known about them outside of this time and place. We propose to satellite tag dwarf minke whales to determine their habitat preferences, migratory paths, and feeding grounds. We will also determine the extent of human interactions and the risks for dwarf minke whales along Australia’s east coast and in the Southern Ocean. Our results will help to improve management strategies to mitigate risks and threats to this undescribed subspecies.
  • Birtles, Dr Alastair; Andrews, Dr Russell; Jenner, Mr Curt (CI)
  • Mr Jimmy White
$72,584.00 Whales Cetacean
2013 13/37 Genetic distinctiveness and fine-scale population structure of the southeast Australian southern right whale wintering ground
The southern right whale was once widespread throughout Australia, but intensive 19th and illegal 20th century whaling decimated the population. Wintering grounds in West and South Australia are growing at a healthy rate. However, in the southeast (TAS, VIC and NSW), there is only one recognised wintering ground and the population has not increased in the past 20 years. We will use samples collected by AMMC-funded research projects and established genetic methodology to resolve whether the southeast Australian right whale wintering ground is distinct. This critical information will be used for management of this endangered species.
  • Harcourt, Prof Robert; Carroll, Dr Emma (CI)
  • Ms Mandy Watson; Dr Rachael Alderman
$25,761.00 Whales Cetacean
2013 13/43 Satellite tagging of blue whales in southern Australian waters: examining movements and occupancy patterns to inform management decision-making.
Blue whales are endangered due to 20th century whaling. It is imperative to determine movements and occupancy patterns of blue whales in Australia for identifying biologically important areas, and when and where anthropogenic activities, such as seismic surveys, may impact whales. Pygmy blue whales with the least knowledge of individual movements and occupancy patterns include those in southern Australian waters. These waters are characterised by a large number of present and proposed offshore petroleum activities. We will satellite tag blue whales in southern Australia to inform EPBC Act referrals and assessments, Blue Whale Conservation Management Plan, and Marine Bioregional Planning
  • Moller, A/Prof Luciana; Attard, Ms Catherine (CI)
  • Dr Mike Double; Mr Chris Burton; Mr David Paton
$172,533.39 Whales Cetacean
2013 13/45 A state-wide survey of ASL in South Australia: evaluating current status and trends in abundance, and reviewing survey methodologies to optimise future monitoring strategies
Key objectives and actions of the Australian sea lion Recovery Plan are the development and implementation of research and monitoring programs and the application of quantitative frameworks to assess population status and the potential recovery across the species range. This project will assess population status and trends at key sites, and integrate data from a range of projects to provide the first State-wide ASL survey in South Australia. It will synthesise all historic data to provide an assessment of the current status and trends in abundance, review and evaluate survey methodologies and make recommendations on future monitoring strategies for the species.
  • Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simon; Mackay, (CI)
  • Dr Frederic Bailleul; Dr Peter Shaughnessy; Dr Clive McMahon
$116,231.00 Sea Lion Pinniped
2013 13/46 Quantitative assessment of the risk of shipping traffic to whales: a case study for humpback whales in the Great Barrier Reef
Collisions with ships is one of the main causes of anthropogenic mortality to baleen whales worldwide. Conservative estimates of the projected increase in vessels transiting the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) have it at least doubling by 2020. Thus, the threat of ship strikes to whales may also increase. Humpbacks are one of the most frequently reported victim of vessel strikes worldwide, however there has been little focus on the impacts of vessel strikes on whales in Australian waters. This project will use existing and new data to quantitatively assess the risk of ship strike to humpback whales in the GBR.
  • Childerhouse, Dr Simon; Smith, Dr Joshua (CI)
  • Dr Jessica Redfern; Mr Thomas Moore
$166,705.00 Whales Cetacean
2013 13/48 Offshore migratory movement of southern right whales: addressing critical conservation and management needs
This project will contribute to advancement in the management and conservation of southern right whales by providing data on the offshore migratory movements of whales from the Head of Bight (HoB) and Fowlers Bay (FB) aggregations, South Australia. Detailed information on the distribution and behaviour of southern right whales is fundamental for their conservation and management. This proposal addresses two ‘High’ priority actions listed in the Federal Government Recovery Plan for this species; understanding offshore distribution and, characterising baseline behaviour. Characterising migratory movements will also inform management of potential risks from human activities, such as offshore development(s).
  • Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simon; Mackay, Dr Alice; Lowther, Dr Andrew; Holman, Mr Dirk (CI)
  • Dr Mike Double; Dr Simon Childerhouse; Prof Robert Harcourt; Dr Guido Parra; Ms Mandy Watson; Dr Emma Carrol
$105,878.50 Whales Cetacean
2013 13/51 Whale sightings in South Australia: migration of data to internet platform and updating the State’s database
The SA Museum manages the State’s whale sightings (~3500 records) in an Access database that is not readily available to those outside the Museum. We will update the database and migrate it to an internet-compatible form, making them accessible to the Atlas of Living Australia, National Marine Mammal Centre, industry and the public. The data will be used to manage threatened species during applications for marine developments such as oil and gas harvesting. Data will be summarised in lay form and used to promote the sightings program and the need for such information to conserve whales and dolphins.
  • Kemper, Dr Catherine; Morris, Mr Robert (CI)
  • Ms Alexis Tindall
$54,171.00 Whales Cetacean
2012 BD2012 Postdoc Passive acoustics of coastal dolphins: developing passive acoustic methodology for monitoring Australian snub-fin (Orcaella heinsohni) and Indo-Pacific humpback (Sousa chinensis) dolphins
  • Smith, Dr Joshua (CI)
$400,363.60 Dolphins Cetacean
2012 12/1 Maintaining the monitoring of pup production at key Australian sea lions at colonies in South Australia
Monitoring of trends in the abundance of the threatened Australian sea lion is recognised as critical to the implementation of the species Recovery Plan (scheduled for release 2012), and as a key performance indicator of bycatch mitigation measures introduced into the Commonwealth managed shark gillnet fishery (June 2010, May & Sept 2011, Jan 2012). The proposed surveys to be supported in this application will continue to refine and standardise survey methodology, facilitate long-term abundance and trend estimation of the species and sub-populations, and assist DSEWPC in developing and implementing their proposed National Australian sea lion monitoring strategy.
  • Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simon; Lowther, Dr Andrew (CI)
  • Mr Paul Rogers; Dr Peter Shaughnessy
$167,431.00 Sea Lion Pinniped
2012 12/2 Status and trends in abundance of New Zealand fur seal populations in South Australia
New Zealand fur seals are the widest ranging seals in southern Australia. The majority of their population (>80%) is located in South Australia where strong recovery has occurred since the 1980’s. From a survey of the largest colonies in 2006, pup production and population size were estimated at ~18,000 and ~84,000, respectively. Their rapid growth has been implicated in declines of little penguin colonies that sustain ecotourism operations, and they are impacting major finfish aquaculture industries in Port Lincoln. This project aims to undertake a State-wide census of pup production (last done in 1990); and estimate the size and trends in abundance of the population.
  • Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simon; Lowther, Dr Andrew (CI)
  • Mr Paul Rogers; Dr Peter Shaughnessy
$66,030.00 Seals Pinniped
2012 12/3 Monitoring population dynamics of right whales off southern Australia, 2012 and 2013
The project continues a long-term monitoring study since 1993 to obtain counts and individual identification photographs of right whales visiting the southern Australian coast between C Leeuwin WA and Ceduna SA, where most ‘Australian’ right whales occur. Surveys were AMMC funded in 2010 and 2011, and prior to 2009. The results provide continuing evidence of the population’s recovery from extreme reduction and likely trajectory towards original population size, and will enable detection of possible linkages between population dynamics and environmental events. A long-term monitoring strategy for this population (AMMC funded, 09/41), completed in 2011, recommended continuation of such annual surveys.
  • Bannister, Mr John (CI)
$49,637.27 Whales Cetacean
2012 12/4 Determining spatial distribution of foraging effort by Australian sea lions in southern Western Australia: assisting in spatial and temporal management of commercial fisheries
The single largest anthropogenic threat to the Vulnerable (EPBC Act 1999) endemic Australian sea lion is mortality through accidental gillnet fishing bycatch. At the recent Federal Government Australian sea lion workshop, the absence of data on foraging behaviour of Australian sea lions of all age classes along the southern Western Australian coastline was identified as a primary research need. We will directly address this knowledge gap by tracking a subset of adult female Australian sea lions across the southern Western Australian range, providing data for Department of Fisheries (WA) scientists to perform appropriate modelling of foraging overlap with commercial fisheries in the region.
  • Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simony (CI)
  • Dr Rory McAuley
$74,280.91 Sea Lion Pinniped
2012 12/9 Workshop: Use of Geographic Information Systems in Cetacean Research
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are rapidly becoming an indispensable component of cetacean ecological research. Applications range from the design of monitoring surveys, to species distribution modelling, spatial conservation prioritization and forecasting of global change impacts. However, how to correctly use and apply GIS in ecological research is not necessarily straight-forward. This workshop aims to provide an introduction to using GIS techniques in cetacean research. Specifically, it will provide training in 1) the typical tasks required to use and analyse data derived from cetacean surveys in a GIS and 2) the application of species distribution modelling (SDM) in the marine environment.
  • Parra, Dr Guido J.; Bejder A/Prof Lars (CI)
  • Dr Colin D MacLeod
$39,903.64 Whales and dolphins Cetacean
2012 12/11 Population size, habitat use and genetic structure of Australian humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) around the North West Cape, Western Australia.
Globally, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) are considered “near threatened” by the IUCN, but remain unlisted in Western Australian (WA) legislation. The paucity of data on humpback dolphin populations in WA waters hinders rigorous impact assessments for this species along this rapidly changing coastline. Preliminary surveys off the North West Cape indicated the area represents an important stronghold for humpback dolphins and coastal development adjacent to a Marine Protected Area is likely to impact local populations. This study aims to determine the abundance, habitat use and genetic structure of humpback dolphins around the North West Cape to inform their conservation and management.
  • Parra, Dr Guido J.; Bejder A/Prof Lars ; Frere Dr Celine; Allen, Simon (CI)
  • Prof. Ken Pollock
$187,187.27 Dolphin Cetacean
2012 12/13 Whale Tale: A crowdsourcing platform for cross-identification of Australian Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaengliae)
This project is to develop ‘Whale Tale’, an online platform to crowdsource the matching of Australian Humpback whale fluke identification photographs. Combining the unbeatable pattern-recognition ability of the human brain and the massively distributed effort of crowdsourcing, we aim to efficiently match individually identified humpback whales. We consider this to be the only method to manage thousands of individual photos and get the most accurate data for sight-resight models of humpback whale population abundance, trends, and distribution. Crowdsourcing can offer the effort and redundancy needed for scientists to manage their current catalogues, as facilitate the integration of multiple catalogues.
  • Kaufman, Gregory D.; Tolley, James (CI)
  • Curt Jenner
$67,023.00 Whales Cetacean
2012 12/15 Validation of methods for the humane treatment of moribund cetaceans
Cetaceans are large charismatic mega fauna that are of great interest to humans both within Australia and internationally. For a variety of reasons sick, injured and orphaned cetaceans live strand on beaches around Australia. Currently there is no national standard protocol for how moribund cetaceans should be euthanased. Small cetaceans are most commonly euthanased with firearms, but there are no agreed protocols and little scientific validation for the humaneness or effectiveness of current methods. This project will provide a rigorous scientific basis for the use of a select range of firearms and ammunition types that can be used to safely, effectively and humanely euthanase small cetaceans. All field work will be done on already deceased cetaceans.
  • Mawson, Dr Peter; Coughran, Dr Douglas (CI)
  • Dr Simone Vitali
$76,174.55 Whales and dolphins Cetacean
2012 12/19 Evaluating the use of whisker spot patterns as a non-invasive method of individual identification of Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea)
Identification of individuals is essential to answer questions on population demographics and individual behaviour. This study aims to develop and test a photo-identification method based on whisker spot patterns for the endangered Australian sea lion as a non-invasive technique for “marking” individuals. Two approaches to computer assisted matching will also be tested and the efficacy compared. Establishing a semi-automated non-invasive photo-identification method for species such as the Australian sea lion will open up opportunities for non-invasive methods for other related species. Such a technique will contribute significantly to the ability to estimate key population parameters needed for effective recovery plans and the long term conservation of threatened and endangered species.
  • Salgado Kent, Dr Chandra; Osterrieder, Sylvia (CI)
  • Mr Carlos Anderson; Dr Mihai Lazerescu
$10,550.00 Sea Lion Pinniped
2012 12/21 Southern Right Whale Photo Identification and population census at Head of Bight, S.A. and assessment of Fowlers Bay as an emerging potential nursery ground and aggregation area
This Project will continue the long-term photo identification study of southern right whales at the Head of Bight (HOB), South Australia. The Project will contribute towards the advancement of the management and conservation of southern right whales by adopting an outcome driven approach to address recovery objectives which require a long-term unbroken data series on life history parameters and site occupancy, including: 1. Improving the understanding of life history parameters, population trends, site occupancy and enabling detection of threats to the South Australian southern right whale population 2. Assessing the emerging potential nursery ground and re-distribution of whales to historic aggregation areas at Fowlers Bay by cross-matching photographs from Fowlers Bay with the HOB photo identification catalogue.
  • Burnell, Dr Stephen (CI)
  • Ms Claire Charlton
$26,090.91 Whales Cetacean
2012 12/26 Abundance estimation of breeding stock 'D' of humpback whales (Western Australia): a pilot study to determine optimal survey methods and location
This project will develop a robust method for quantifying breeding stock ‘D’ of humpback whales (Western Australia). Previous line transect and other surveys of humpbacks have been carried out at various locations in Western Australia, but these surveys have been largely unsuccessful in providing reliable and robust estimates of g(0), leaving significant uncertainty around the current population size. This pilot study will assess the viability of two (previously un-used) locations for land-based surveys; and test two alternative methods of aerial survey, both more directly aimed at estimating g(0). The results will be used to plan subsequent abundance and monitoring surveys.
  • du Fresne, Dr Sam (CI)
  • Dr Amanda Hodgson; Dr Josh Smith; Dr Sharon Hedley
$199,377.27 Whales Cetacean
2012 12/27 Australian fur seal pup production and population trends, 2012-13
Australian fur seals give birth to pups at ~20 locations, comprise ~120,000 individuals, and are endemic to south-eastern Australia. They constitute a large biomass of apex predator and interact frequently with fisheries. We plan to continue a 5-yearly, species-wide, monitor of pup-production, which recorded ~22,000 live pups in both 2002/03 (a near-doubling since the 1970s) and 2007/08 (suggesting numbers plateaued after 2002/03). New sites have been colonised since 2007/08, however, and a potential population-regulating disease (an alopecia syndrome) has been recognised at the large (25% of species) colony on Lady Julia Percy Island. Thus, regional population trends probably are fluctuating.
  • Kirkwood, Dr Roger; Arnould, A/Prof John; Gales, Dr Rosemary (CI)
  • Mr Kris Carlyon; Dr Steve Kirkman
$47,536.36 Seals Pinniped
2012 12/29 Assessment of numbers and distribution of Southern Right Whales in South-east Australia
Anecdotal evidence of increased sightings of southern right whales in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania over the past ten years suggests that there are signs of recovery in the south-east region however there are no strong abundance or trend estimates available for this population. This project will directly implement a Very High Priority Action in the Draft Conservation Management Plan for the Southern Right Whale 2011 – 2016. We will replicate methodology used in south-west Australia to conduct aerial surveys from Ceduna to Sydney (including Tasmania) for a minimum of three years, to obtain a snapshot of population size and gain insights into possible emerging areas of importance across the region. The results of this project will also aid in determining the need for and design of a longer term survey plan for the region.
  • Watson, Mandy; Westhorpe, Ian (CI)
  • Mr John Bannister; Ms Sharon Hedley; Dr Robert Harcourt
$60,739.64 Whales Cetacean
2012 12/30 Fur seals: habitat preferences and human interaction
Australian and New Zealand fur seals are currently recovering from historic over-exploitation and are expanding their ranges within Australian waters. Both seals are coionising habitats along the NSW coast, where they will compete for resources with each other and with human use. Understanding habitat preferences of these seals at a time when their populations are low, will greatly enhance the success of future conservation and management strategies both in NSW and elsewhere where seal populations are expanding. This project will examine haul-out and foraging activities of these seals
  • Harcourt, Profesor Robert; Carr, Mr Matt (CI)
  • Dr Roger Kirkwood; Dr Justin Clarke
$96,240.00 Seals Pinniped
2012 12/31 Australasian Right Whale Photo-identification Catalogue
This project will establish an Australasian Right Whale Photo-Identification Catalogue application to provide a centralised, online repository for data about individually identified southern right whales. The catalogue will provide for access to comprehensive resight histories, a mechanism for matching individual identifications and a framework for integrated analyses of currently isolated datasets. The catalogue will provide a tool for collaborative research and management to advance the conservation of southern right whales.
  • Pirzl, Dr Rebecca (CI)
  • Mr Kieran Lawson; Mr Andy Townsend
$247,498.18 Whales Cetacean
2012 Passive acoustics of coastal dolphins: developing passive acoustic methodology for monitoring Australian snub-fin (Orcaella heinsohni) and Indo-Pacific humpback (Sousa chinensis) dolphins
Development of non-invasive methodology using passive acoustics to improve knowledge of distribution, abundance and habitat use of cetacean populations and evaluation of this monitoring tool for assessing cetacean and human interactions.
  • Smith, Dr Joshua (CI)
$400,363.64 Dolphins Cetacean
2012 IPCF 12/1 An assessment of cetacean mortality in the tuna gillnet fisheries of Pakistan
Each year several marine cetaceans are found stranded along the Pakistani coastline. The cause of their mortality remains unknown, although entanglement is suspected as the primary reason. The project will supplement the scarce information about cetaceans along the coastline of Pakistan. A twenty-four month long assessment of cetacean mortality in tuna gillnet fishing will support in devising a mitigation strategy for the protection of threatened marine mammals such as Frasier dolphins Lagenodelphis hosei and Humpback whales Megaptera novaengliae in Pakistan. The project will particularly focus on the issue of entanglement in gillnets, thereby addressing the often ignored issue of by-catch.
  • Nawaz, Mr Rab; Khan, Mr M Moazzam (CI)
  • Dr Baber Hussain; Mr Shoaib Kiyani
$56,519.00 Whales and dolphins Cetacean
2012 IPCF 12/2 The abundance and conservation management of the Indo-Pacific finless porpoise and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin in Langkawi, Malaysia
This project is aimed at studying the distribution, abundance estimation and ecology of cetaceans in the Langkawi Archipelago, especially on the Indo-Pacific finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis). Langkawi is one of Malaysia’s top tourism destinations and a UNESCO World Geopark, but its waters are not gazetted as a Marine Park. Many human activities threaten Langkawi’s marine ecosystems and biodiversity including cetaceans. It is therefore vital to collect data on the animals to ascertain their conservation status and needs in order to advise the local development authority and relevant governmental agencies on management plans for the area and the animals.
  • Ponnampalam, Louisa; Kimura, Satoko (CI)
  • Grace Siromani Duraisingham; Fairul Izmal Jamal Hisne
$60,000.00 Dolphins Cetacean
2012 IPCF 12/3 Improving our understanding on the distribution and monitoring trends of humpback whales migrating through Samoa
The overall goal of this project is to document and understand the migration and distribution of humpback whales in Samoa. This project will also ensure that long-term datasets are collected as well as increasing photo-identification of humpback whales used to determine the abundance, status and trend of the Endangered Oceania humpback whales within Samoa’s National Sanctuary. This project would also allow Samoa to fulfil its commitments and obligations with implementing priority actions listed in the Oceania Humpback Recovery Plan and the regional SPREP Whale and Dolphin Action Plan. The increase in skills and knowledge obtained by local personnel and volunteers will also be an additional value especially when such research will be ongoing. Apart from humpback whales, other cetaceans that are encountered will be documented and this would also provide a better understanding of cetacean diversity within Samoa’s waters.
  • Ward, Juney; Simi, Titimanu (CI)
$59,986.00 Whales Cetacean
2011 11/4 Maintaining the monitoring of pup production at key Australian sea lions at colonies in South Australia
Monitoring of trends in the abundance of the threatened Australian sea lion is recognised as critical to the implementation of the species Recovery Plan (scheduled for release 2011), and as a key performance indicator of bycatch mitigation measures introduced into the Commonwealth managed shark gillnet fishery (June 2010). The proposed surveys to be supported in this application will continue to refine and standardise survey methodology, facilitate long-term abundance and trend estimation of the species and sub-populations, and assist DSEWPC in developing and implementing their proposed National Australian sea lion monitoring strategy.
  • Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simon (CI)
  • Dr Brad Page; Dr Peter Shaughnessy
$109,016.00 Sea Lions Pinniped
2011 11/5 An empirical assessment of whale alarms and avoidance, or not, by migrating humpback whales
Cetacean entanglements in fishing gear costs governments, fishermen and stakeholders millions of dollars a year, and often results in serious injury or death of the entangled animal. Substantial effort has been directed toward attempts to use acoustic deterrents to reduce or eliminate incidental capture of dolphins, but there is little evidence of the effectiveness of such methods for resolving fishery conflicts with large whales. As the east Australian humpback whale population continues to increase, interactions with fishing gear will increase. This project aims to test the effectiveness of low-frequency whale alarms for deterring migrating humpback whales from the noise source.
  • Harcourt, Prof Robert (CI)
  • A/Prof Vic Peddemors; Dr David Slip; Miss Maryrose Gulesserian
$87,941.82 Whales Cetacean
2011 11/6 Importation of dugong meat by the Torres Strait Diaspora: quantities, motivations, and potential effectiveness of management options
Local information and modelling suggests that the globally-significant Torres Strait dugong population is over-harvested, resulting in considerable Australian government investment in community-based management. Yet despite the fact that (a) 86% of Islanders live on mainland Australia, and that (b) evidence suggests that the sharing of dugong meat with the Diaspora is potentially significant, relatively little is known about this contributor to the harvest, or about ways of managing it sustainably. This project will seek to redress that issue, identifying the quantities consumed by the Diaspora, their motivations for doing so, and their views on a variety of management strategies.
  • Stoeckl, A/Prof Natalie (CI)
  • Prof Helene Marsh,
$170,468.15 Dugong Sirenian
2011 11/7 Monitoring Population dynamics of right whales off southern Australia
The project continues a long-term monitoring study since 1993 to obtain counts and individual identification photographs of right whales visiting the southern Australian coast between C Leeuwin WA and Ceduna SA. The results provide continuing evidence of the population’s recovery from extreme reduction and likely trajectory towards original population size. A project to design a long-term monitoring strategy for this population was funded by AMMC in late 2009 (Application 09/41, 31 March 2009). Pending its completion (now February 2011) a survey was funded by AMMC in 2010. Dependent on the outcome it is important to maintain the annual series in 2011.
  • Bannister, Mr John (CI)
$11,910.00 Whales Cetacean
2011 11/8 Improving the accuracy of dugong aerial surveys by better correcting for availability bias
Data from Timed Depth Recorders from dugongs in Hervey Bay indicate that their use of the water column varies with water depth and time of day. We will extend this analysis to other locations and seasons to determine if dugong dive patterns vary at a regional scale. The results will be used to improve the capacity of manned and remote aerial surveys to estimate dugong abundance by refining the methodology used to correct for dugongs that are unavailable to observers and/or cameras because of water turbidity.
  • Marsh, Prof Helene (CI)
  • Prof Rhondda Jones; Prof Ken Pollock; Ms Rie Hagihara
$30,171.82 Dugong Sirenian
2011 11/9 The potential of using data-logging acoustic receivers to study the movements and residency patterns of dugongs in port environments: a comparison with satellite tracking
The dugong is one of the Great Barrier Reef region’s World Heritage Values. Dugong numbers on the urban coast of the GBR World Heritage Area declined precipitously between 1960 and1990 and are still relatively low. Although many dugong habitats in the GBR have been protected from incidental fishing by spatial closures, several key habitats are adjacent to major port developments. This project will take advantage of the Australian Animal Tagging and Monitoring System component of the Integrated Marine Observing System to compare the potential of automated acoustic tracking and GPS/ARGOS tracking to inform dugong management especially near ports.
  • Marsh, Prof Helene (CI)
  • Dr Michelle Heupel; Dr Mark Hamann
$201,323.64 Dugong Sirenian
2011 11/10 Workshop to facilitate the development of an Australian humpback whale fluke catalogue
A two-day workshop to bring together humpback whale researchers from around Australia was held from 13-14 December 2011 at the Gold Coast campus of Southern Cross University. The major aim of this workshop was to initiate the development and planning of an Australian humpback whale fluke catalogue. Following pre-workshop consultation with all stakeholders, D. Burns prepared agenda papers for each workshop session. These papers were sent to participants prior to the workshop to facilitate discussions and aid in the decision making process. During the workshop, participants agreed on the following outline to develop an Australian humpback whale photo-identification database: Purpose: The purpose of creating a mechanism to facilitate access to and sharing of humpback whale photo-identification data is to enhance collaborative research and management initiatives. Research Questions: A list of research topics was identified, to be refined at a later date into more detailed research questions. Funding will then be sought to answer specific questions. Database overview: A humpback whale photo-identification catalogue, consisting of separate database and matching system components, should be developed and housed at the Australian Antarctic Division. Ideally the development process would be in parallel with the existing process to create a southern right whale database. Database System: The humpback whale database should provide open access to: i) identification photograph, ii) date and iii) data-owner /contact for each sighting record. Other associated data for each sighting would be accessed through data sharing agreements and protocols. Matching System: A common matching system should be adopted for use within the database. Some workshop participants are already using the Fluke Matcher (FM) software, whereas other participants indicated that further refinement and evaluation of FM is required before they could endorse it, with a view to adopting FM as a common matching system if issues of concern can be addressed. A watching brief should also be kept on emerging advancements (in particular pattern recognition) that may provide an alternative. Database model: Data integrity, quality control and cost to develop and maintain a database were considered and consensus was reached to adopt a consortium model over-arching a curator/curatorteam model to manage the database. This may take the form of a curator-type model during the initial phase of database development, moving to a consortium model to maintain the database once established. Intellectual Property protection: Intellectual property would be protected through data contribution and data access agreements. Funding requirements: Efficiencies would be gained if the key components of the humpback whale database could be developed in parallel with the existing process to create a southern right whale database at AAD. The group recommended that AMMC and the SRW developers consider those aspects of the database common to both southern right whales and humpback whales and develop those aspects first if possible. A representative of the humpback whale group will apply to be on the steering committee for the SRW database development if possible. Throughout the Activity Period, Dr Eric Kniest has also performed upgrades to the Fluke Matcher software, including: • Creation of a new feature to allow users to display all sightings data and images of each whale in the database. • The way file and folder names are stored and used within the FM database have been changed to increase cross platform capabilities and allow data storage across different platforms, as well as to allow the user to rename image files. • Investigation of methods for decreasing data entry time is ongoing, including development and testing of automatic measurement of minor control points, trailing edge, V-notch, and features (spots, lines etc.). • A new feature has been added so that FM provides a recommended search range for each search depending on the image quality and fluke characteristics of the target fluke. • Development of an import function to allow data to be imported from Excel spreadsheets and other databases is currently underway.
  • Burns, Dr Daniel (CI)
  • Dr Hendrik (Eric) Kniest; Dr Lyndon Brooks; Prof Peter Harrison; Curt & Micheline Jenner; Chris Burton; David Paton; Megan Kessler; Dr Mike Noad; Rachael Alderman; Dr Jan-Olaf Meynecke; Peta Beeman
$36,936.36 Whales Cetacean
2011 11/15 Identification of humpback whale breeding areas in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park: validation of a spatial habitat model
The breeding area/s for Australian humpback whales in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) are poorly defined. This information gap was addressed recently by using predictive spatial habitat modelling to identify potentially important areas for mating and calving. We now aim to validate the model by conducting dedicated and targeted aerial surveys within sub-regions of the GBRMP, with the objective of identifying the extent of the breeding grounds of humpback whales for the whole Great Barrier Reef (GBR) region. The rapid increase of both the humpback whale population and human activities within the GBRMP mean an increase in human interactions with breeding humpback whales is inevitable. Quantifying distribution and habitat use of mating and calving whales in the GBRMP is critical for effective management of these interactions.
  • Smith, Dr Joshua (CI)
  • Prof Ken Pollock; Dr Sharon Hedley
$210,866.36 Whales Cetacean
2011 11/19 Developing and implementing standardised monitoring protocols for ASL across its range in Western Australia
At present there is a little information on the breeding schedule and levels of pup production among threatened Australian sea lion colonies (ASL) on the south coast of WA, and no framework in place for its collection. This project will develop the framework needed (‘cybertracker’ software on GPS enabled PDA’s linked to a reporting database) and train regional wildlife staff to conduct surveys for the determination of; 1) the breeding schedule of key ASL colonies and 2) the level of pup production at sentinel colonies.
  • Campbell, Dr Richard (CI)
  • Dr Kim Friedman; Dr Sarah Comer; Mr Matt Dasey
$63,050.91 Sea Lions Pinniped
2011 11/21 1. Status, Structure and Distribution of Southern Right Whales in South-east Australia – Phase 2
Indications from sightings data from 1985 collected at Logans Beach in Victoria, the only recognised nursery in SE Australia, are that Southern Right whales are not increasing in number (pers. comm. M.Watson, DSE) in this region. In addition genetic studies using mtDNA markers have found that significant differentiation exists between the remnant south east coast population (in particular Warrnambool calving grounds) and animals from Western Australia and New Zealand (Patenaude and Harcourt 2006). When compared with HOB and WA, the species in this region is poorly understood, more vulnerable, and more likely to be impacted by anthropogenic threats. The primary objective of this project is to improve the understanding of status of the population within SE Australia via on-going collection and analysis of genetic samples and photo-identification data. Accurate assessment of population size, distribution, delineation of critical habitat and rates of genetic interchange, is essential in order to better understand the status of the species with SE Australia. This knowledge is fundamental for evaluation of impacts of anthropogenic threats (eg. entanglement, vessel collision and noise disturbance) at important locations within the region and for future management of this endangered species. Photo-identification data collected around the SE Australian coastline during the 2010 breeding season indicates that there is negligible overlap between wintering grounds used by Southern Right whales within this region. Further work in this area is required including analysis of genetic material collected during Phase 1.
  • Watson, Ms Mandy (CI)
  • Prof Rob Harcourt; Rachael Alderman; Geoff Ross; Emma Carroll
$81,157.27 Whales Cetacean
2011 11/23 Snubfin and humpback dolphin abundance and genetic connectivity in the Kimberley region, Western Australia
Three coastal delphinid species (snubfin, humpback and bottlenose dolphins) inhabit Australia’s tropical northwestern bioregion, an area undergoing extensive habitat modification through industrial port development. The paucity of information on these protected species available to state management agencies precludes informed assessment of: (a) the potential implications of large-scale developments thereon; and (b) candidate regions for development or protection. We will assess abundance and residency for all three species across seven strategic locations of varying anthropogenic activity from near pristine to heavily-modified industrial ports. Using these results, we will develop predictive habitat models and formulate monitoring program options for long-term trend detection.
  • Allen, Mr Simon (CI)
  • Dr Lars Bejder; Dr Celine Frere; Prof Ken Pollock,
$115,663.64 Dolphin Cetacean
2011 IPCF 11/553 Increase local capacity to research and conserve marine mammals in the Kikori River Delta, Papua New Guinea.
The status of coastal marine mammals in Papua New Guinea (PNG) waters is largely unknown; however it is likely that PNG supports regionally significant populations of some species. This project aims to investigate the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine mammals in the Kikori Delta of PNG and increase local research capacity. To do this we will conduct a community awareness-raising workshop; a marine mammal research training course with local PNG researchers; and boat-based transect surveys with participants from the training. A 'Kikori Delta Marine Mammal Management Plan" will be developed in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Conservation.
  • Jeffrey, Ms Saina; Beasley, Dr Isabel (CI)
  • Mr Olo Gebia; Dr Guido Parra
$60,000.00 Dolphin and dugongs Cetacean and Sirenian
2011 IPCF 11/554 Coastal Marine Mammals along the Eastern Gulf of Thailand
Our goal is to assess the conservation status of marine mammals in Trat province along the eastern coast of the Gulf of Thailand and to provide data and recommendations towards their management and conservation. This project is truly interdisciplinary, with an approach that will combine boat based surveys, photo-id, spatial modeling of physical and biological environmental habitat criteria, as well as community interviews that address the cultural/traditional knowledge of villagers and assess conservation values. We believe that this approach will contribute effectively to local/regional conservation and possible protected area management for threatened coastal cetaceans, especially in a rapidly developing area with few protected areas.
  • Hines, Dr Ellen; Mananansap, Mr Somchai (CI)
  • Dr Louisa Ponnampalam; Ms Anouk Llangakoon; Ms Tara Whitty
$49,224.00 Whales and dolphins Cetacean
2011 IPCF 11/555 Palau Cetacean Research Project
Palau Marine Mammal Research Project is the first dedicated investigation into the status of cetaceans in Palau. The project aims to define cetacean species diversity and distribution information which will inform management and conservation measures in the newly declared Palau Marine Mammal Sanctuary. The project is a collaboration between The Government of Palau, Whales Alive and Sustainable Decisions with support from SPREP and Oceanswatch.
  • Andrews, Olive; Holm Tiare (CI)
  • Dr Philip Clapham; Dave Orrukem
$66,000.00 Whales Cetacean
2011 BD2011 Postdoc Improving the understanding of the conservation status of the Australian snubfin and humpback dolphins: Identification of critical habitats in the Gulf of Carpentaria and southern PNG
The Australian snubfin dolphin, Orcaella heinsohni and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, Sousa chinensis, occur in small, localized populations in northern Australia. The Australian snubfin dolphin is currently recognized as Australia’s only endemic cetacean; and it is likely that the Australian populations of the humpback dolphin will also be recognized as a separate species. Although experts have been concerned about the status of these populations for more than 30 years, both species are considered data deficient, which precludes their listing under Commonwealth or state legislation. The overall aim of the project is to ‘Investigate the conservation status of coastal dolphins in the Gulf of Carpentaria and southwest Papua New Guinea, to contribute to a comprehensive evaluation of the status of the Australian snubfin dolphin and the Australian humpback dolphin’. The objectives of the project are to: Objective 1. Synthesise information on the biology, distribution and abundance of the Australian snubfin and humpback dolphins and associated anthropogenic threats Objective 2. Identify likely important habitats for Australian snubfin and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin in the Gulf of Carpentaria based on anecdotal information and the species-habitat relationships described by Parra et al (2006b). Objective 3. Investigate the distribution and relative abundance of these dolphins in: 1). areas identified through Objective 2; and 2). known, but largely unstudied habitats in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in collaboration with Traditional Owners and Indigenous Sea Ranger groups. Objective 4. Investigate the occurrence and taxonomic status of Orcaella sp. in Papua New Guinea, in collaboration with local research and university personnel.
  • Beasley, Dr Isabel (CI)
$400,363.60 Dolphins Cetacean
2010 10/1 Monitoring Population dynamics of right whales off southern Australia
The project continues a long-term monitoring study since 1993 to obtain counts and individual identification photographs of right whales visiting the southern Australian coast between C Leeuwin WA and Ceduna SA.A project to design a long-term monitoring strategy for this population was funded by AMMC in late 2009 (Application 09/41, 31 March 2009). Pending its completion (September 2010), it is important to maintain the annual data series, especially given the reproductive cycle (adult females visiting the coast ca every three years), the exceptionally low cow/calf count in 2007, and the highest count in the series obtained in 2009.
  • Bannister, Mr John (CI)
$17,445.45 Whales Cetacean
2010 IPF 10/1-4 Conservation of Cetaceans in North Arabian Sea, along the Balochistan Coast, Pakistan
Information on marine cetacean in Pakistan is limited mainly to the Sindh coast. This project will undertake surveys to determine abundance, diversity, seasonal habitat use and assess threats to cetacean population. Emphasis on awareness and capacity building of relevant government staff, students and local communities on marine cetacean conservation will be given. This information will help in managing habitat destruction as a result of developmental activities on Balochistan coast and evaluate impacts of these actions on marine life particularly marine cetaceans Comprehensive Cetacean Action Plan in consultation with various stakeholders will be developed. Cetaceans are key indicators of habitat quality.
  • Nawaz, Mr Rab (CI)
  • Dr Mauvis A. Gore; Mr Ahmed Khan
$89,800.00 Whales and dolphins Cetacean
2010 10/2 Aerial survey of Torres Strait to evaluate the efficacy of an enforced and possibly extended Dugong Sanctuary as one of the tools for managing the dugong fishery
Torres Strait supports the world’s largest dugong population. Local information and modelling suggest that this population is over-harvested. Comparison of spatial models of dugong hunting and relative dugong density based on aerial surveys indicates that spatial management has potential as a management tool. Torres Strait Islander attendees at a workshop in October 2008 strongly supported enforcement and possible extension of the gazetted Dugong Sanctuary in western Torres Strait. The efficacy of this approach cannot be evaluated because most of that area has never been surveyed for dugongs. This project will survey Torres Strait dugong habitats including the western region.
  • Marsh, Prof Helene (CI)
  • Ms Alana Grech,
$96,769.09 Dugong Sirenian
2010 10/8 Developing a decision process based on expert knowledge to inform the management of dugongs and coastal dolphins in Northern Australia: the Yanyuwa sea country in the Northern Territory as a case study: Phase 2
The inshore waters of northern Australia support globally significant populations of three species of marine mammals of conservation concern: the endemic Australian snubfin dolphin, a likely new endemic species of humpback dolphin, and the dugong. Phase 1 of this project obtained important information on the distribution and relative abundance of these species in the sea country of the Yanyuwa in the Northern Territory from the expert knowledge of Traditional Owners and a vessel survey in November 2009. The research identified the need for a follow-up winter survey to inform future management by obtaining data on possible seasonal effects.
  • Marsh, Prof Helene (CI)
  • Dr Guido J. Parra; Dr Isabel Beasley; Dr John Bradley; Ms Alana Grech
$35,966.36 Dugong Sirenian
2010 10/11 Informing the conservation status of the Australian snubfin dolphin by assessing its distribution and abundance in adjacent waters
The Australian snubfin dolphin is known to occur in small isolated populations in Australian coastal waters, however, its occurrence in adjacent waters such as those of Papua New Guinea (PNG) remains unknown. This project investigates the occurrence and distribution of Orcaella in PNG waters adjacent to Torres Strait. We will conduct semi-structured interviews with villagers, and carry out a reconnaissance boat survey in collaboration with local PNG researchers to assess the occurrence of this species. The results of this study will assist towards an accurate assessment of the taxonomy, and conservation status of the Australian snubfin dolphin.
  • Beasley, Dr Isabel (CI)
  • Mr Vagi Rei; Dr Guido J. Parra; Dr Cara Miller; Prof Helene Marsh
$39,996.36 Dolphin Cetacean
2010 IPF10/11 Abundance, ranging patterns, habitat selection and fisheries interactions of Indo-Pacific humpback and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in coastal waters of the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh
Little is known about the ecology and fisheries interactions of Indo-Pacific humpback and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in the Indian Ocean, and this lack of knowledge makes it impossible to develop science-based measures needed for conservation management. The project will address this gap of information, specifically in an area of the eastern Indian Ocean that has been identified as a global hotspot of cetacean diversity as well as an ecological “cul-de-sac in terms” of potential climate change-related impacts. The project’s research activities will provide fundamental knowledge that will then be used for developing an effective conservation plan and contribute to building strong local capacity for conducting rigorous research on cetaceans.
  • Smith, Dr Brian; Mowgli, Rubaiyat Mansur (CI)
$90,000.00 Whales and dolphins Cetacean
2010 10/13 Anthropogenic contaminants in Queensland’s coastal dolphins: levels and toxicological effects
There is increasing scientific concern about threats to cetaceans occasioned by multiple stress factors due to bioaccumulation and effects of anthropogenic contaminants. Several International institutions, including IWC, have encouraged research and development of suites of sensitive non-lethal tools, like biomarkers, applicable on free-ranging animals, to define the 'toxicological status’ of threatened cetacean species. Inshore dolphins are among the most threatened species from coastal pollution. In this study we will use biopsy samples to assess contaminants levels and effects (OCs, PAHs and heavy metals) in Australian snubfin (Orcaella heinsohni), Indo-Pacific humpback (Sousa chinensis) and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops spp.). Correlations with biomarker responses (CYP1A1-CYP2B) will provide a thorough evaluation of their toxicological stress.
  • Cagnazzi, Mr Daniele (CI)
  • A/Prof Maria Cristina Fossi; Dr Marsili Letizia; Prof Peter Harrison; Dr Guido J. Parra
$88,535.45 Dolphin Cetacean
2010 10/14 Combining genetics and morphology to resolve a longstanding taxonomic and conservation management issue: How many bottlenose dolphin species are there in Australian waters?
Successful wildlife conservation and management requires baseline information on species identity and distribution. Yet this is lacking for Australian bottlenose dolphins through taxonomic uncertainty. Since bottlenose dolphins are subject to a suite of human impacts, there is a need to address this uncertainty. This study aims for the first time to integrate morphological and genetic techniques to clarify the taxonomic status, distribution and structure of the genus Tursiops in Australian. This approach is possible through our unprecedented access to a large number of specimens (n=860+, that have already been collected by all investigators and museums), and will be available for analysis in this project.
  • Kemper, Dr Catherine (CI)
  • Dr Michael Krützen; Ms Maria Jedensjo; Mr Simon Allen; Dr Lars Bejder; Dr Guido J. Parra; Ms Kate Charlton-Robb
$43,833.64 Dolphin Cetacean
2010 IPCF 10/17 Establishing a long-term dataset for monitoring trends in humpback whale migration through Fijian waters
This project will document the migration patterns of Endangered Oceania humpback whales through Fijian waters. Establishing a consistent and long-term dataset on movement patterns is an important component to understanding the recovery, trend and status of this species within national waters. Furthermore, the project is being set up to support the development and build the capacity of national government staff and researchers, and also to be relatively low-cost and easy to replicate to ensure sustainability over the longer term. In addition, all cetacean species sighted during these surveys will be documented to increase understanding of cetacean biodiversity in Fijian waters.
  • Batisbasanga, Aisake; Sharma, Saras (CI)
$20,922.00 Whales Cetacean
2010 IPCF 10/19 Increasing knowledge on cetacean diversity, building in-country research capacity, and working towards a national cetacean management plan in Papua New Guinea
To progress long-term cetacean conservation in Papua New Guinea it is crucial that capacity and expertise is developed in-country. Furthermore, it is important that baseline information and policy efforts related to cetaceans are expanded. This project will be centred around some small boat-based cetacean diversity surveys in Manus during which practical field research skills will be developed for a core group of in-country participants, a national management plan for cetaceans will be progressed, and numerous other education and awareness initiatives will be undertaken. This strategy progresses a three-pronged approach to cetacean conservation and management in Papua New Guinea.
  • Rei, Mr Vagi; Miller, Dr Cara (CI)
$27,346.00 Whales and dolphins Cetacean
2010 10/20 Feeding behaviour and feeding ecology of humpback whales in southern New South Wales.
East Australian humpback whales have been observed ‘opportunistically’ feeding in waters off Eden on the southern coast of NSW. However, the importance of this feeding and its role in the ecology of this population has not been studied. This project is an initial study of 1) feeding behaviour (including acoustic behaviour) these whales and 2) the feeding ecology of humpback whales in this area. It may lead to the development of a longer-term study of humpback whale feeding ecology in this potentially important area. The study will also improve our knowledge of the proportion of the population still migrating along the coast at this latitude, which is currently not known.
  • Dunlop, Dr Rebecca (CI)
  • Dr Michael Noad; Mr David Donnelly
$96,000.00 Whales Cetacean
2010 10/21 Acoustic investigation of new bycatch mitigation pingers
The primary aim is to create an acoustic energy predictive model for bycatch mitigation pingers used by the Qld Shark Control Program (QSCP), for individual devices and as a cumulative total. This will include predictions of detection by marine mammal species where possible. The model will be combined with ambient noise measurements to create a report detailing noise characterisation of current QSCP pingers, sound mapping of pinger output, characterisation of ambient noise in areas where pingers are used, contribution of pinger energy to total noise budgets, and potential range of detection by marine mammal species. This report would fill a current void, and form the base understanding for management decisions made by GBRMPA, DERM and QSCP about pingers in the Queensland underwater soundscape and assist with optimal pinger deployments.
  • Erbe, Dr Christine (CI)
  • Mr Craig McPherson; Miss Andrea Craven; Mr Tony Ham
$47,481.82 Whales and dolphins Cetacean
2010 10/24 Australian Southern Right Whale Photo-identification Catalogue: Phase One – Design development
The aim of this project is to design an Australian southern right whale photo-identification catalogue to assimilate currently disparate Australian photo-identification datasets. This will be achieved using existing Australian southern right whale photo-identification expertise as well as international right whale catalogue management experience to develop a single Australian catalogue. The catalogue will significantly improve accessibility of data currently held on local systems, increasing the range of analysis and management application opportunities for existing datasets. It will facilitate regular access by a range of users for the purposes of ongoing logging of photographs, matching IDs, data exchange and research. The project will be run as two phases. Phase one, for which funding is requested here will: Investigate existing systems to consider their relevance and suitability to Australian requirements Conduct consultation with and obtain input from existing and potential catalogue holders and users within Australia on the form and content of a centralised catalogue Develop a technical brief for system development and a plan for production, establishment and ongoing management of a national catalogue. Phase two will see implementation of this plan including: Production of the national catalogue to the technical brief specifications Establishment of the system at the most appropriate hosting institution Migration of existing data into the catalogue, including any outstanding cross-catalogue matching Phase two of the project has not been costed at this stage due to the inherent need to complete Phase one first.
  • Pirzl, Dr Rebecca (CI)
  • Mandy Watson,
$68,622.73 Whales Cetacean
2010 10/26 Maintaining the monitoring of pup production at key Australian sea lions at colonies in South Australia
Monitoring of trends in the abundance of the threatened Australian sea lion is recognised as critical to the implementation of the draft Recovery Plan for the species (scheduled for release March 2010), and as a key performance measure of bycatch mitigation measures (fishery closures) to be introduced (June 30) into the Commonwealth managed shark gillnet fishery. DEWHA are proposing to hold a workshop to develop a National Australian sea lion monitoring strategy during 2010. This project will undertake abundance surveys at key representative colonies identified in previous DEWHA/AMMC reports, to assist the development of a monitoring strategies and performance measures.
  • Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simon (CI)
  • Dr Brad Page; Dr Peter Shaughnessy
$100,736.33 Sea Lions Pinniped
2010 10/30 Modelling the abundance and habitat preferences of coastal dolphins in the Gold Coast region
Coastal dolphins are among the most vulnerable marine species, particularly those inhabiting localised areas adjacent to major cities. This study will focus on the fine-scale habitat preferences of the threatened Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin at the southern limit of their range along the east coast of Australia. A complementary set of survey and modeling techniques will be used to quantify their dependency on specific habitats and environmental conditions, investigate the influence of other delphinid species and identify anthropogenic threats. A comprehensive management report will be developed to aid in the conversation of coastal dolphins in one of Australia’s most populated regions.
  • Brooks, Dr Lyndon (CI)
  • Dr Elizabeth Hawkins; Prof Peter Harrison; Dr Guido J Parra
$64,341.82 Dolphin Cetacean
2010 10/33 Population size, structure and habitat preferences of common dolphins in South Australia: enhancing the assessment, reduction and mitigation of fisheries operational interactions.
Common dolphins are subject to operational interactions with the South Australian Sardine Fishery (SASF). To date, assessing the impact of interactions has not been possible because very little is known about the dolphins’ ecology. This project will use distance sampling, population genetics and spatial modelling to enhance our understanding of the abundance, population structure and habitat preferences of South Australian common dolphins. This will enable an assessment of population level effects of bycatch, a high priority for AMMC and a requirement under the EPBC Act.
  • Möller, Dr Luciana (CI)
  • Dr Guido J. Parra; Dr Kerstin Bilgmann; A/Prof Simon Goldsworthy; A/Prof Luciano Beheregaray; Dr Eric Rexstad
$352,313.64 Dolphin Cetacean
2010 10/37 Aerial survey of the urban coast of Queensland to evaluate the response of the Dugong population to the widespread effects of the January 2011 floods and Cyclone 'Yasi'
1) The urban coast of Queensland supports globally significant populations of dugongs and the importance of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Region for dugongs was a reason for its World Heritage listing. Coastal waters of this Region have been protected by the progressive establishment and upgrading of one of the world’s most extensive networks of ecosystem-scale Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). (2) Impacts of changes in global climate on dugong populations have not been well explored but mortality of dugongs due to storm events has been documented and intense tropical storms and rainfall events can negatively disrupt seagrass communities, adversely affecting dugong life history and reproductive rates. (3) Severe weather event affecting the urban coast of Queensland in the summer of 2010/11 included the strongest La Niña weather pattern since 1973, major floods and Tropical Cyclones Tasha, Anthony and Yasi, all impacting the major dugong habitats on the urban coast of Queensland to varying degrees. (4) In the light of the expected impacts of the extreme weather events of 2011 on dugong habitats, the objectives of the project were to: (1) inform dugong management along the urban coast of Queensland by continuing the time series of aerial surveys to monitor dugong distribution and abundance, and (2) document the impacts of the 2011 floods and cyclones on dugong distribution and abundance by comparing the results of the 2011 survey with the other surveys in the time series. (5) The estimated total number of dugongs in Moreton Bay plus Hervey Bay was very similar to the combined estimates for 2005 (3001 + 412) in 2005 compared with 2999 + 128 in 2011 using the Marsh and Sinclair (1989a) methodology and 2538 + 546 in 2005 compared with 2729 +599 in 2011 using the Pollock et al. (2006) methodology. The estimated size of the dugong population in the Southern GBR Region in November 2011 was the lowest since surveys began in 1986: 481 + 43 using the methodology of Marsh and Sinclair (1989a), and 608 + 213 using the Pollock et al. (2006) methodology. These patterns were confirmed by the analyses of dugong density excluding the large herds; the 2011 dugong densities for Moreton Bay and Hervey Bay were not significantly different from the long-term averages, while the dugong density in the Southern GBR was significantly lower than for previous surveys. (6) The proportion of calves in Hervey Bay (9.7%) and Moreton Bay (8.5%) were within the range expected for ‘normal conditions’ while no calves were seen in the Southern GBR during the 2011 survey. (7) There was only a minor change between survey years in the overall proportion of high and very high density dugong planning units within 'protected' and 'unprotected' zones of the Great Barrier Reef Region’s marine parks. However, a much lower proportion of high and very high density dugong planning units are highly protected in Moreton Bay than in the Southern GBR suggesting a need to reconsider the initiatives to protect dugongs in Moreton Bay. Given that the inshore seagrass meadows in Hervey Bay have been severely damaged by flood events on several occasions over the last 20 years, it would be prudent for the Queensland Government to increase the protection of the offshore seagrass beds in that region.
  • Marsh, Prof Helene (CI)
$86,863.64 Dugong Sirenian
2010 BD2010 Postdoc Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to survey marine mammals: development of methodology and a comparison with manned aerial survey estimates.
The conservation and management of many marine mammal populations relies on accurate and precise estimates of their abundance, distribution and habitat use by conducting aerial surveys. We will determine whether Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) can replace manned aircraft by (a) trialling various imaging systems and testing their suitability for accurately detecting and identifying marine mammals to species, and (b) directly comparing results manned and unmanned surveys. UAVs have the potential to reduce cost, eliminate human risk and provide more accurate survey data.
  • Hodgson, Dr Amanda (CI)
$400,363.64 Dugong Sirenian
2009 09/3 Determining baseline health and disease parameters for wild dugongs in urban and non-urban waters of northern Australia
Dugong populations are significantly declining along the urban coastlines of northern Australia and can only sustain low levels of mortality. To initiate protection policies, major threats including human-associated and natural disease must be clearly defined. At present, a significant number of dugong mortalities remain undiagnosed. This project involves a unique collaboration between veterinary specialists and biologists to: (i) identify baseline health and disease parameters by necropsy of healthy dugongs harvested for food in nonurban Torres Strait and, (2) use these benchmark parameters to inform and develop methods for post-mortem diagnosis of causes of death and assessment of health status in urban Moreton Bay. Queensland. Health assessments have been conducted on 66 live dugongs (of all ages and both sexes) in Moreton Bay during four field trips conducted over the period 2008-2011. This includes one fieldtrip after the major Queensland floods of Dec 2010-Jan 2011. Thirteen dugongs were also examined from the Burrum Heads region of Hervey Bay in June 2011. Biological and clinical samples including blood, urine, mucus, faeces and skin have been collected from each animal for haematological, bacteriological, endocrine, cytological, genetic and toxicological analysis (as appropriate). Blood haematology, serum biochemistry and trace element analysis have been completed and the results are currently being interpreted. Endocrine analysis of serum and faeces has been completed and three publications are in prep. Microbial and disease screening work, and toxicology is on-going. Retrospective analysis of histopathological specimens collected from each of 40 dugong carcasses recovered from Moreton Bay and necropsied over the period 1997- 2007 is being conducted. Cause of death and baseline pathology of > 20 cases has already been conducted by a postgraduate student, with validation of histopathology findings by one of the PIs (Patterson-Kane). Biological information regarding diet, age, reproductive state, genetics has been determined for each case. This retrospective review analysis will continue. Tissues collected from each of these previous necropsies have undergone heavy metal analysis and a publication is currently in prep. Further toxicological analyses (e.g. POPs) will be conducted when further funds become available. During this current project 2008-2011, >25 dugong carcasses have been recovered from the Moreton Bay area and necropsied. Full necropsy reports including gross morphology, histopathology findings and likely cause of death have been submitted to DERM’s Marine Stranding Database. Biological information including body size, age (through tusk age), reproductive state (endocrine analysis), diet (ingesta analysis), population of origin (genetics) and resight history (if the dugong was a tagged individual) has been compiled for each carcass. These data will be added to the on-going dugong mortality database, and will form part of a major review document for dugong deaths in south-east Queensland. In addition, tissues have been collected from all the major organ systems for histo-pathology, disease screening, parasitology, microbiology and toxicology. Necropsy of dugongs in southern Qld will continue throughout 2010-2011. Necropsy of dugongs harvested for food by indigenous people in Torres Strait was conducted during a one-month field trip to Mabuiag Island in April 2011.
  • Lanyon, Dr Janet M (CI)
  • Assoc Prof Janet Patterson-Kane; Assoc Prof Darren Trott; Dr Caroline O'Leary
$101,262.73 Dugong Sirenian
2009 09/7 Population genetic structure of blue whales in Australia and surrounding regions: Genetic assessment of northern Indian Ocean blue whales and connectivity with Australian blue whales
Our broad aim is to investigate the population genetic structure of blue whales in Australia and surrounding regions. The proposed project involves a genetic assessment of northern Indian Ocean blue whales and their degree of connectivity with Australian and Antarctic blue whales. This will involve biopsy sampling Sri Lankan and Maldivian blue whales, and microsatellite and mtDNA control region marker analyses. High mobility in baleen whales makes it essential to determine Australian blue whale connectivity with surrounding regions for appropriate conservation management. This study will gather information required by the Australian Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan, and IWC.
  • Moller, Dr Luciana (CI)
  • Ms Catherine Attard; Assoc Prof Luciano Beheregaray; Ms Anoukchika Ilangakoon; Dr Charles Anderson; Mr Curt Jenner; Dr Peter Gill; Mr Chris Burton; Ms Margaret Morrice; Mrs Micheline Jenner
$74,396.91 Whales Cetacean
2009 09/8 Population size of blue whales in Australian waters
This project will investigate population size of blue whales in Australian waters based on genetic and photo-ID data from Australian aggregation areas. Recent genetic data, supported by limited photo-ID data, indicate that whales that aggregate in Perth Canyon (WA) and Bonney Upwelling (SA and VIC) are part of the same genetic population (Moller et al., 2007; Jenner et al., 2008; Attard et al., in review;) and therefore a combined estimation of population size is required. The subspecific identity and relationship of Geographe Bay whales to this putative population is currently being assessed genetically. We will use high resolution genetic data to identify individuals, their population of origin and subspecific status. This information will be combined with photo-identification data to generate an estimate of population size and recurrence of whales between the three areas and multiple years.
  • Moller, Dr Luciana (CI)
  • Dr Peter Gill; Mr Curt Jenner; Mr Chris Burton; Miss Catherine Attard; Ms Margaret Morrice; Ms Micheline Jenner; Dr Michael Double; Assoc Prof Luciano Beheregaray,
$119,634.91 Whales Cetacean
2009 09/9 Population genetic structure of Australian sperm whales
We will use powerful data derived from multiple DNA markers to elucidate population genetic structure of Australian sperm whales. Results will be incorporated into a global analysis of population structure carried out by the ‘Cachalote Consortium’, which at present has scarce information from Southern Hemisphere sperm whales. Our work will fill up sampling gaps and generate invaluable data for determining the conservation status of sperm whale stocks and for providing information for delineating management units for this vulnerable species.
  • Moller, Dr Luciana (CI)
  • Miss Joanna Wiszniewski; Assoc Prof Luciano Beheregaray; Mr John Bannister; Dr Rosemary Gales
$51,540.91 Whales Cetacean
2009 09/17 Prevalence and impact of hookworm infection on Australian sea lion populations
The range and impact of diseases is a key knowledge gap and research priority for threatened N. cinerea populations (McKenzie et al. 2005). Preliminary data (Gray, unpubl.) suggests that, as in some other otariids, hookworm is an important cause of pup mortality in N. cinerea. This project will: i) determine the prevalence of hookworm infection and associated mortality in N. cinerea; ii) investigate factors predisposing to infection and mortality; iii) investigate the role of hookworm-associated mortality as a forcing factor of population demography, specifically the contribution of hookworm to variable pup survival and recruitment, providing direct management and conservation outcomes for this species.
  • Gray, Dr Rachael (CI)
  • Dr Damien Higgins; Assoc Prof Simon Goldsworthy; Prof Paul Canfield
$135,604.55 Sea Lions Pinniped
2009 09/19 Genetic Structure and Abundance of fishery-impacted dolphin populations of the Pilbara region, North-Western Australia
Between 150 and 350 bottlenose dolphins have been caught in the Pilbara Trawl Fishery since late 2003. Little data on dolphin stock identity or abundance exists and whether recent declines in dolphin catch reflect better bycatch reduction devices or a declining dolphin population remains unknown. To assess the level of impact that dolphin bycatch is having on this undetermined stock, we will: identify population genetic structure across fishery-impacted areas; conduct photo-identification to determine the number of dolphins interacting with trawlers; and, carry out an aerial survey to estimate dolphin abundance. Our research has national application in reducing negative delphinid-fisheries interactions.
  • Allen, Mr Simon (CI)
  • Dr Lars Bejder; Dr Kate Bryant; Dr Michael Krutzen; Professor Ken Pollok; Professor Neil Loneragan
$328,181.82 Dolphin Cetacean
2009 09/23 Evaluation of WA Humpback surveys 1999, 2005, 2008: Where to from here?
The project will utilise three existing datasets from an aerial survey undertaken in 1999, and combined aerial-land surveys in 2005 and 2008, on northward-migrating humpback whales off the coast of western australia. The data from these three surveys have already been analysed, but the results are somewhat inconclusive, with differences in methodology and analytical assumptions making valid comparisons difficult. This project will revisit the datasets from all three years, and attempt a more streamlined analysis that will estimate abundance in a consistent manner. A significant outcome of the project will be recommendations (together with some logistical details) on how and where any future surveys of this Breeding Stock should be undertaken.
  • Dunlop, Dr Rebecca (CI)
  • Dr Sharon Hedley; Mr John Bannister
$48,522.73 Whales Cetacean
2009 09/25 Abundance estimates of the east Australian humpback whale population: 2010 survey
East Australian humpback whales were hunted to near-extinction in the early 1960s. Since the early 1980s land-based abundance surveys have been conducted at Point Lookout off Brisbane where most of the whales pass close to land. The last survey was performed in 2007 and in order to continue monitoring the recovery of this population, we propose conducting another survey in 2010.
  • Noad, Dr Michael (CI)
  • Dr Rebecca Dunlop; Mr David Paton
$83,990.00 Whales Cetacean
2009 09/27 Genetic evidence for distinctiveness and connectivity among Australian dugongs
We have recently completed the largest scale genetic diversity assessment to date of the dugong, demonstrating the profound effects of glacial cycles on the genetic structure of Australian animals and that there may be some barriers to uniform gene-flow in Australian waters. Urgent questions remain as to the nature and locations of any such barriers, prompting this proposal for additional, targeted sampling and further genetic analysis. Resolution of these questions has implications for both management and scientific understanding. The history and distinctive nature of Australian dugong populations will be placed in context by analysis of additional samples from other countries.
  • Blair, Prof David (CI)
  • Assoc Prof Michelle Waycott; Prof Helene Marsh
$80,755.45 Dugong Sirenian
2009 09/29 Informing dugong hunting management in Torres Strait by studying dugong movements and habitat usage
Torres Strait supports the world’s largest dugong population. Local information and modelling suggest that this population is over-harvested. Comparison of spatial models of dugong hunting and relative dugong density indicates that spatial management has considerable potential as a tool to manage the Indigenous harvest. Management plans were developed by 8 Torres Strait communities in 2008. The development of spatial management for dugong in Torres Strait is challenging because little is known about the spatial ecology of dugong there. This project will inform community-based management of dugongs by involving Islanders in satellite tracking to quantify dugong movements and habitat use.
  • Marsh, Prof Helene (CI)
  • Dr Marck Hamann; Mr Frank Loban; Mr Terrence Whap
$195,283.00 Dugong Sirenian
2009 09/32 Beaked whale habitat modelling part of Coral Sea using environmental data and acoustic detection survey data
Little is known of beaked whale distributions in Australian waters. We aim to develop a habitat map of an offshore area of the Coral Sea by correlating acoustic detections of beaked whales with environmental variables such as sea floor and oceanographic properties. This would be a first step in development of general prediction methods for their distributions. It will use data from two surveys of the area (surveys and analysis funded separately). Tens of thousands of beaked whale click sounds have been detected so far in analysis of the first survey compared with 12 visual detections for the whole survey.
  • Cato, Adjunct Prof Douglas H (CI)
  • Dr Inke Falkner; Ms Edwina Tanner; Mr Les Hamilton
$57,000.00 Whales Cetacean
2009 09/34 Inter-seasonal variation in cohort survival to recruitment in the threatened Australian sea lion: demographic modelling of the Seal Bay population to assist management and recovery of the species
Seal Bay Conservation Park (Kangaroo Island), one of the largest populations of the threatened Australian sea lion (ASL), underpins an important regional tourism industry and has been in decline for more than 20 years. A demographic monitoring program has been in place since the 1990’s, 12 pup cohorts have been marked with internal RFID tags and their survival monitored via automated and manual resight systems. This project will assess and compare inter-seasonal variation in cohort survival and recruitment, develop demographic models for the population, investigate the cause(s) of population decline, and advise on management needs for the population, sustainable tourism, and an ongoing population monitoring program.
  • Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simon (CI)
  • Dr Rebecca McIntosh
$38,443.64 Sea Lions Pinniped
2009 09/35 Using the foraging behaviour of the threatened Australian sea lion to assess habitat quality and inform the zoning of marine parks in South Australia
The outer boundaries of South Australia’s Marine Parks have recently been declared, but the identification and declaration of habitat protection and sanctuary zones by SA DEH will occur over the next three years. Presently, metrics being used to determine the location and scale of these zones are largely anthropocentric. This project aims to identify critical foraging habitats of the threatened Australian sea lion (ASL) and determine how best to incorporate these into the marine planning process and address the question: “Can ASL foraging behaviour be used to assess habitat quality and inform the zoning of marine parks in SA?”
  • Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simon (CI)
  • Prof Peter Fairweather; Dr Brad Page; Dr Bryan McDonald; Dr Simon Bryars; Mr Andrew Lowther
$252,969.09 Sea Lions Pinniped
2009 09/36 Maintaining the monitoring of pup production at key Australian sea lions at colonies in South Australia
Recent advancees in survey methods for determining pup production of the threatened Australian sea lion have substantially improved the accuracy, precision and repeatability of surveys. These advances are significant because managing for the recovery of this threatened species will need to be underpinned by an ability to detect changes in the status of populations over the shortest possible time-periods. A workshop to facilitate the development of a National Australian sea lion monitoring program is proposed to take place during 2009. Until such a program is developed, it is important to maintain surveys at key representative colonies identified in previous AMMC reports.
  • Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simon (CI)
  • Dr Brad Page; Dr Peter Shaughnessy
$72,390.00 Sea Lions Pinniped
2009 09/38 Structure and subdivision of the Australian sea lion - defining species-wide management units using ecological and genetic information
This project aims to complete the fine-scale examination of Australian sea lion (ASL) population structuring outlined in AMMC Project 0708/26 and Project 0809/27 by performing the first comprehensive fine-scale mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite analysis on samples representing at least every major ASL breeding colony in South Australia and potentially for the species. We intend delineating biologically meaningful population management units based on contemporary genetic data for over 80% of the species to assess metapopulation structure. We also anticipate deriving the first estimate of effective population size for the species, an important parameter for assessing extinction risk.
  • Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simon (CI)
  • Prof Steve Donnellan; Assoc Prof Robert Harcourt; Dr Brad Page; Mr Andrew Lowther
$62,862.00 Sea Lions Pinniped
2009 09/39 Track: A new tool for integration, interpolation and visualisation of animal tracking data
Marine mammal movement data is primarily available from animal-borne telemetry systems as infrequent, unpredictable locations of various accuracy on the Earth’s surface. Additional rich and precise information about depth in the water column can be obtained with animal-borne data loggers. Determining where an animal might go in the periods between known locations is called interpolation and requires sophisticated, mathematically based computational techniques and software. This project will deliver a software application called Track that will enable researchers to more easily and accurately predict marine mammal movements. Track will also provide a simple to use database system for the management and storage of large quantities of movement data.
  • Hindell, Prof Mark (CI)
  • Dr Nick Gales; Dr Simon Wotherspoon; Mr Sascha Frydman
$49,454.55 General
2009 09/40 Southern right whales - 2009 census and photo identification at Head of Bight, South Australia
The project will continue a long-term photo-identification and breeding site census data set from which information has been accruing annually, at Head of Bight, South Australia over 18 years, The project continues to contribute towards management and conservation of right whales in Australian waters by providing: a) detailed information on the breeding success of southern right whales off south-western Australia allowing studies of the potential impacts of environmental and climate factors b) quantitative information on the number and status of right whales using the important aggregation area within the Great Australian Bight Marine Park c) information on other life history and population parameters and movements essential for stock assessment,
  • Burnell, Dr Stephen (CI)
  • Ms Claire Charlton
$19,727.27 Whales Cetacean
2009 09/41 Monitoring population dynamics of right whales off southern Australia
There are two parts to this project: 1. Designing a long-term monitoring strategy for "western" Australian SRW population, based on analysis of the two existing long-term datasets (16+ years); 2. Continuing collection of both datasets in 2009. The goals of the long-term monitoring will be - cost-effective assessment of rate of increase and population size; - study of environmental forcing in the feeding grounds of Australian SRWs, via effects on inter-birth interval. Pending the design study outcomes, it is important to avoid gaps in either dataset, since at least one annual photo-ID dataset is essential for interpreting count data. Given the timing of the application process, alternative funding has been obtained for part 2, and that part of the project has been edited from the remainder of this proposal.
  • Bannister, Mr John (CI)
  • Dr Sharon Hedley; Dr Mark Bravington; Dr Stephen Burnell
$47,659.09 Whales Cetacean
2009 09/42 Southern right whales and stable isotopes: Towards defining southern right whale habitat and trophic ecology
Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) are currently listed as endangered and the national recovery plan for this species lists the identification of critical habitat use as a high priority. However, collection of these data using conventional methods such as satellite tracking is technically difficult, has yet to be tested on right whales, and is hampered by low sample size (and therefore low statical power). We will conduct a pilot study to investigate the use of stable isotopes in skin collected during biopsies of free-ranging whales to identify the foraging grounds and trophic level of primary prey species at those foraging grounds. The technique has the potential to enable large-scale geographic characterisation of summer foraging habitat for the species within Australia and throughout the circumpolar range of the species.
  • Hindell, Prof Mark (CI)
  • Dr Simon Childerhouse; Mr Glenn Dunshea,
$21,225.45 Whales Cetacean
2009 09/43 Habitat use and distribution patterns of southern right whales and sperm whales discerned from spatial analyses of 19th century whaling records
Describe what you are doing and why (maximum of 100 words). In particular explain how your work will contribute towards advancement in our management and conservation of marine mammals. We will develop habitat models of southern right and sperm whales within Australasia based on 19th century whaling records of whale presence and absence. Our models will be spatially and temporally explicit over large scales, and therefore capable of reliable predictions of modern-day habitat use patterns to be assessed relative to anthropogenic threats and long-term climate variability. Effective management of whale populations requires accurate knowledge of distribution patterns associated with environmental, temporal, and threat variability. Our results will inform policy development of the dynamic distribution patterns of southern right and sperm whales to improve the conservation of these protected species.
  • Torres, Dr Leigh (CI)
  • Dr Tim Smith; Mr John Bannister; Dr Alison MacDiarmid; Dr Helen Neil; Dr Jill Schwarz; Dr Steve Chisel
$124,439.09 Whales Cetacean
2009 09/44 Status, structure and distribution of Southern-Right Whales in South-East Australia - Phase 1
Indications from sightings and photo-identification data collected in Victoria since 1985 are that Southern Right Whales are not increasing in number (pers. comm. M.Watson, DSE) in SE Australia. In addition genetic studies using mtDNA markers have found that significant differentiation exists between the remnant south east coast population (in particular Warrnambool calving grounds) and animals from Western Australia and New Zealand (Patenaude and Harcourt 2006). When compared with HOB and WA, the species in this region is therefore more vulnerable, and is also poorly understood and likely to be more heavily impacted by anthropogenic threats. The primary objective of this project is to improve the understanding of status of the population within SE Australia via on-going collection and analysis of genetic samples and photo-identification data. Accurate assessment of population size, distribution, delineation of critical habitat and rates of genetic interchange, is essential in order to better understand the status of the species with SE Australia. This knowledge is fundamental for evaluation of impacts of anthropogenic threats (eg. entanglement, vessel collision and noise disturbance) at important locations within the region and for future management of this endangered species.
  • Watson, Ms Mandy (CI)
  • Assoc Prof Rob Harcourt; Dr Rosemary Gales; Dr Nathalie Patenaude; Kristin Bilgmann; Fiona Mandelc; Geoff Ross
$33,177.27 Whales Cetacean
2009 09/45 Blue Whale Workshop 2010
Day 1 - The Sub-Tropical Convergence Expedition Workshop was intended to discuss and form a consensus on survey goals, design and data collection methodology using the combined expertise of the group. Discussion was structured around a few key planning elements and their opportunities and constraints i.e. background and research questions, data collection techniques, survey track, data synthesis and data modelling. This was led by the expedition organisers Pete Gill (BWS) and Curt Jenner (CWR), and facilitated by Barbara Musso (DEWHA). Some of the main consensus points of the workshop were the importance of the expedition, its goals and proposed outcomes, and the need to develop long-term data management and funding strategies. Participants agreed that the expedition will provide new knowledge of blue and other threatened ‘large’ whale species (e.g. southern right, sei whales) in this extensive and unknown region. It will also highlight areas of potential development activity, and linkages between these Indian Ocean systems with the Antarctic, and south-east Asian and Australian waters. Day 2 - The main goals identified for Day 2 were sharing of information and ideas, and developing future research collaborations, within the framework of strategic needs for the recovery of blue whales that aggregate in the Indo-Pacific region. Through collaborative discussion and a form of consensus, a framework was created for blue whale research at least for the next five years. A formal name was agreed for the group, the Indo-Pacific Blue Whale Research Consortium, to assist in collaborative research efforts and communication between research groups. The research program areas developed on the day (population for pygmy blue whales in the Australasian region, population identity and connectivity, habitat selection and distribution, and current and emerging threats) would become a foundation on which to guide discussion with potential funding bodies and develop funding applications. Day 3 - Facilitated by Chandra Salgado Kent, the day was dedicated to the trial of the Southern Hemisphere Blue Whale Catalogue (SHBWC) and feedback on its use to the developers i.e. Centro de Conservación Cetacea in Chile through Bárbara Galletti. Bárbara gave an overview of the current status of the development and trial of the catalogue, made possible with funds from the IWC in 2008/2009. Bárbara clarified that the IWC is dedicated to fund work over 2 years, where the first year is for regional comparisons (by June 2011), and the second is for inter-regional comparisons. A number of catalogue-specific items were agreed upon by the group as needing consideration, and Barbara will work with the group and her IT specialists to resolve these. Tracking the health of individual whales was also discussed and Curt Jenner agreed to work with the group and other researchers worldwide to develop health indices.
  • Morrice, Ms Margie (CI)
$18,181.82 Whales Cetacean
2009 09/46 Workshop: Spatial Modelling of Cetacean habitat use and abundance
The grant provided by the AMMC allowed us to host two one-week workshops on methods for studying marine mammal habitat use and abundance using spatial modelling of survey data. The workshops were hosted by Bejder and Parra, respectively,in Perth and Port Lincoln,and presentations were carried out by Prof. Phil Hammond and Dr. Ana Canada. The workshops comprised of lectures (including presentation of case studies), demonstrations, and practical work. The final day of each workshop was dedicated to discussion of issues arising and consultation on design and analysis for specific project data.
  • Bejder, Dr Lars (CI)
  • Dr Guido J Parra; Professor Phillip Hammond; Dr Ana Canadas
$45,410.91 Whales and dolphins Cetacean
2009 Distribution and abundance of sperm whales off Albany, WA
The area off Albany, with a narrow and very steep-to continental shelf, is the only sperm whale habitat in Australian waters where historical data are available (see Bannister, 1968). It is one of the few known sperm whale habitats off Australia as a whole; others include the edge of the continental shelf southeast of Kangaroo Island, SA, off Tasmania and south of Sydney on the east coast. While sightings and strandings of sperm whales are relatively frequent around the coast, no quantitative evidence of Australian sperm whale abundance from any source is currently available. 3 Sperm whaling operations took place off Albany, Western Australia from 1956-78, causing a substantial decline in the ‘Albany stock’ (Bannister et al., 1996, based on Kirkwood and Bannister, 1980, and Kirkwood et al., 1980). Data on which those assessments were based were largely from commercial ‘spotter’ aircraft employed to locate whales and assist the catcher boats during the chase. These aircraft flew throughout the commercial whaling season (from March/April to November). Daily records of the number of whales seen from the aircraft are available from 1962 onwards. Between 1962 and 1966, a single-engined float plane was employed; this aimed to cover a restricted area off Albany once per successfully completed flight. From 1967, it was replaced by a more efficient twin-engined aircraft. Its greater speed allowed for a larger area (Figure 1) to be covered more than once, although sightings were logged only once. The resultant change in strategy meant that simple indices of abundance such as the number of whales (or more typically, males) seen per flying unit were not comparable, leading Kirkwood and Bannister (1980) to suggest that data from the single-engined plane (1962-66) together with the first year of data from the twin-engined aircraft (1967) should be discounted for the purposes of assessing the trend in abundance of the stock. Following the cessation of the Albany whaling operations, a proposed design for a dedicated survey programme for sperm whales off Albany was developed (Kirkwood, 1980) to provide for the long-term monitoring of populations of sperm whales in that area. In particular, it focused on investigating the feasibility, optimum timing, duration and costs of a programme that would yield comparison with data recorded during commercial aerial spotting operations from 1962-1978. This programme was never undertaken. The utility of conducting a survey as outlined in Kirkwood’s (1980) report was reported by Hedley (2006), and hence this project was undertaken in 2009. The primary objective was to obtain abundance indices of the Albany sperm whale population that are comparable with previous indices obtained used data from the sperm whaling operations conducted off Albany, Western Australia. Figure 1
  • Harcourt, Prof Robert (CI)
  • Sharon Hedley; John Bannister
$412,443.45 Whales Cetacean
2008 0809/1 Increasing the accuracy of dugong population estimates from aerial surveys by quantifying dugong diving behaviour
We will analyze existing data from Timed Depth Recorders (TDRs) from dugongs tracked in Hervey Bay, Queensland in the context of fine scale telemetry, habitat mapping, and remotely sensed data and develop a protocol for interpreting and comparing dugong TDR data from other areas in Australia and overseas where fine scale habitat data are not available. The resultant analysis will: (1) enable time-budgets to be developed and compared for dugongs under various conditions; and (2) increase the capacity of aerial surveys to estimate dugong abundance by improving the correction factor for dugongs that are unavailable because of water turbidity.
  • Marsh, Prof Helene (CI)
  • Prof Rhondda Jones; Dr Ivan Lawler
$17,954.55 Dugong Sirenian
2008 0809/2 Developing a decision process based on expert knowledge to inform the management of dugongs and coastal dolphins in Northern Australia: the Yanyuwa sea country in the Northern Territory as a case study.
The inshore waters of northern Australia support globally significant populations of three species of marine mammals of conservation concern: the endemic Australian snubfin dolphin, a likely new endemic species of humpback dolphin, and the dugong. Information required to develop plans to conserve these populations will be logistically difficult and expensive to obtain using western science alone. This project will develop and evaluate a decision process based on the expert knowledge of Traditional Owners and fishers to inform arrangements to manage these species across Northern Australia using the sea country of the Yanyuwa in the Northern Territory as a case study.
  • Marsh, Prof Helene (CI)
  • Dr John Bradley; Dr Janet Carey; Ms Alana Grech; Dr Guido J. Parra; Dr Scott Whiting
$71,727.27 Dugong Whales Cetacean and Sirenian
2008 0809/5 Quantifying trophic links in several Antarctic marine predators
This project will provide information on the relative trophic position of several Antarctic pack-ice predators including the southern elephant seal, Weddell seal and Antarctic fur seal during the winter months. There is a strong relationship between annual winter sea-ice extent and the population parameters of various components of the Antarctic ecosystem. Trophic relationships of Antarctic marine predators are critical to better understand ecosystem dynamics at this crucial time of year. Through the investigation of winter diet information, this project will provide new information on the winter foraging ecology of these key Antarctic species and in turn provide insights into important marine mammal habitats which may overlap with fisheries and other human activities.
  • Hindell, A/Prof Mark (CI)
$17,500.00 General
2008 0809/6 Further investigation into abundance estimates of migrating humpback whales in Australia: Resolving unmodelled heterogeneity, estimating g(0) and producing new abundance estimates for both populations.
The proposed study will use distance sampling techniques on previously collected data to help resolve the unmodelled heterogeneity concerning the detectability of passing whales (both for aerial and land-based surveys). Together with a comparison of aerial survey data from both coasts, the results will improve the accuracy of absolute and relative abundance calculations of humpbacks on the east and west coasts of Australia. These improved abundance estimates will aid in the prediction of each population’s carrying capacity (K). Predicting K is important in terms of determining conservation measures for the species and mitigating interactions between whales and human activities such as tourism, fishing, shipping and seismic exploration.
  • Dunlop, Dr Rebecca (CI)
  • Dr Michael Noad
$45,689.09 Whales Cetacean
2008 0809/7 Final development of a new computerised fluke matching system and creation of a fluke database for humpback whales photographed off the east coast of Australia from 1999-2005
This project builds on previous successful ACAMMS-funded research and aims to complete the development of ‘Fluke Matcher’, a computerised fluke matching system, by testing it with a very large database. This project will also result in a fully reconciled fluke catalogue of ~2200 individual humpback whales photographed off the Australian east coast,1999-2005. This database will provide mark-recapture data for abundance estimates and trends (RP1a) of east Australian humpback whales, and facilitate efficient matching of flukes to other databases to obtain important information about movements and interchange among populations (RP1c) in Australia, Antarctica and Oceania.
  • Kniest, Dr Hendrik (Eric) (CI)
  • A/Prof Peter Harrison; Mr Daniel Burns
$45,600.00 Whales Cetacean
2008 0809/8 Review of existing sighting datasets to assess the spatial and temporal distribution of humpback whales within the Great Barrier Reef for identifying potential breeding/calving grounds.
The breeding ground of humpback whale Breeding Stock E(i) (East Australian) is poorly defined, but considered to occur within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP). Identifying their mating/ calving area/s is crucial for appropriate management and regulation within these areas and was considered a high priority at a recent review of the Australian humpback whale populations meeting (Sydney, April 2008). This project will collate and analyse existing sighting data to assess distribution and relative abundance of humpback whales in the GBRMP to: 1) identify high concentration areas of humpback whales that indicate potential mating/ calving areas; 2) develop a spatial model of likely breeding habitat to establish priority areas for future survey effort.
  • Noad, Dr Mike (CI)
  • Mr Josh Smith
$44,948.18 Whales Cetacean
2008 0809/9 A Comparison of Group IV Humpback Whale Population Estimates from Two Key Locations Along the Western Australian Coast - Implications for Future Survey Location and Methodology
The overall objective of this study is to asess the current status of the humpback whale population that migrates along the western Australian coastline each year. This project aims to fill significant gaps in current knowledge by employing the latest statistical techniques to analyse seven years of survey data from North West Cape (NWC) to estimate sex ratio, population densities and size; and to compare results to those from Shark Bay, ~400 km south of NWC. By addressing these needs the proposed project will, in addition, elucidate on current survey design efficacy and practicality; which will have implications for future and ongoing locations and methodologies for monitoring humpback whales.
  • Salgado-Kent, Dr Chandra (CI)
  • Mr Curt Jenner
$47,538.18 Whales Cetacean
2008 0809/12 Microsatellites, mating systems and males influence on management units in the Australian sea lion
This project will refine our understanding of the population structure, breeding system and vulnerability of regions to fisheries bycatch. We will develop a microsatellite library for the threatened Australian sea lion. We will assess the extent to which male dispersal counteracts the high degree of structure imputed by female philopatry. We will compare two regions that differ in breeding asynchrony to identify mechanisms of male mediated gene flow. We will determine how male strategies influence management units and effective population size within colonies for two regions that have been assessed as particularly vulnerable to high levels of fisheries bycatch.
  • Harcourt, A/Prof Rob (CI)
  • Dr Adam Stow
$52,600.91 Sea Lions Pinniped
2008 0809/13 Unravelling the genetic structure and diversity of Balaenoptera musculus in Australia: the genetic identity of Geographe Bay blue whales
This project further elucidates the genetic structure and diversity of Australian blue whales by filling the gap in genetic assessment of Geographe Bay whales and performing a powerful investigation of Australian blue whale population genetics using microsatellite and mtDNA control region markers. This will involve biopsy sampling Geographe Bay blue whales, and increasing the number of microsatellite markers and other Australian samples. This study will gather information on population structure required by the Blue, Fin and Sei Whale Recovery Plan, and will resolve the issue of Geographe Bay blue whale subspecific identity brought up at the IWC meeting this year.
  • Moller, Dr Luciana (CI)
$39,719.89 Whales Cetacean
2008 0809/14 Movement behaviours and habitat usage of West Kimberley dugongs: A community based approach
The Kimberley region of Western Australia represents an area where there are significant numbers of dugong, but information is scarce on distribution and behaviour of this species. Traditional usage of dugong is high and local communities have strong relationships with this species. This project will build capacity amongst local Indigenous communities throughout the West Kimberley area to conduct research on dugong movements, behaviours and habitat requirements using GPS satellite telemetry. Information gathered from GPS tags will assist the local communities in the management of dugong as well as provide much needed conservation management data for the appropriate assessment of proposed large scale industry within the region.
  • Holley, Mr David (CI)
  • Mr Daniel Oades
$92,536.36 Dugong Sirenian
2008 0809/17 Improving analysis of marine mammal populations using natural marks and capture-recapture analysis
Presentation of a 3(+2) day workshop on issues in, and methods for, studying marine mammal populations using capture-recapture analysis (CRA) of data from genetic samples and natural marks (Pollock et al. 1990, Williams et al. 2001, Yoshizaki et al. 2008). The core of the program will be a three day workshop comprising of lectures, demonstrations and computer-based exercises on CRA. This to be preceded by an initial day of invited presentations on research priorities, research in progress and planned research, and will be followed by a final day of discussion of issues arising and consultation on design and analysis for specific project data.
  • Pollock, Prof Kenneth (CI)
  • Dr Lyndon Brooks; A/Prof Peter Harrison
$24,575.45 General General
2008 0809/19 Population genetics and phylogeography of Australian snubfin and humpback dolphins: defining appropriate management units for conservation-Stage 1
Australian snubfin and humpback dolphins are particularly vulnerable to local extinction because of their small population sizes and coastal distribution. Furthermore, the recent recognition of both species as evolutionary significant units (ESU) and potentially endemic to Australian waters has important implications for conservation and management. The aim of this study is to assess population structure and phylogeographic patterns of snubfin and humpback dolphins within Australian waters. We will delineate potential management units at a national level for conservation and management purposes.
  • Parra, Dr Guido J. (CI)
  • Ms Céline Frère; Dr Jennifer Seddon; Dr Michael Krützen
$109,822.73 Dolphin Cetacean
2008 0809/23 Identification of gene expression differences among cetacean age classes and their application to cetacean age estimation
We are investigating methods for estimating the age of whales by identifying which genes in their skin are expressed at higher or lower levels at different ages. Once we identify which genes are consistently more or less highly expressed we will make tests to accurately measure expression level. We will then apply these tests to skin samples from populations of whales of unknown age as a way to estimate the age structure of the population. Gene expression in skin is our focus because samples can be collected with minimal adverse impact on the whales being studied.
  • Jarman, Dr Simon (CI)
$28,045.45 Whales Cetacean
2008 0809/27 A stable isotope method to rapidly screen the foraging ecotype profiles of Australian sea lion subpopulations: improving foraging distribution models to assist bycatch mitigation in gillnet fisheries
This project aims to develop and validate stable isotope methods for distinguishing different foraging ecotypes (inshore and offshore) among Australian sea lion (ASL) adult females and their dependent pups, and use pup sampling to rapidly assess the foraging ecotype profiles of ASL subpopulations. The method provides means to assess the representativeness of satellite telemetry data. Results from this project will be used to improve subpopulation- based foraging distribution models being developed over the next year to determine spatial closure options to mitigate ASL bycatch in the shark gillnet fishery off South Australia. 1
  • Goldsworthy, A/Prof Simon (CI)
  • Prof Steve Donnellan; A/Prof Rob Harcourt
$80,412.00 Sea Lions Pinniped
2007 0708/03 Improving information on dugong movements and habitat use using innovative tracking technology
We will enhance understanding of dugong large-scale movements and subtidal habitat use by assessing the potential of the innovative Fastloc GPS technology to mitigate the sampling biases inherent in tracking dugongs using GPS tags, which provide few location fixes from animals in habitats deeper than ~3m and/or moving quickly. The new generation Fastloc technology should increase the chances of recording an animal’s location irrespective of its speed and location. The resultant improved understanding of the large-scale movements and subtidal habitat use of dugongs will inform policy for managing important dugong habitats.
  • Lawler, Dr Ivan (CI)
  • Mr Dave Holley
$61,497.27 Dugong Sirenian
2007 0708/08 Australian fur seal pup production and population trends
Our aim is to estimate Australian fur seal pup numbers at all colonies following the 2007/08 pupping period. This will repeat the first thorough census of pup numbers at all breeding sites conducted in 2002/03. Current data on population sizes and trends are important for understanding and conservation of marine mammals. Australian fur seals are endemic to Bass Strait, breed at 10 sites and are the marine mammal that reportedly interacts most frequently with fisheries in Australia. The 23,000 pups estimated in 2002/03 represented a near-doubling of numbers since the 1970s, when seals became protected species. Is this trend continuing?
  • Kirkwood, Dr Roger (CI)
  • Dr John Arnould
$23,545.45 Seals Pinniped
2007 0708/11 New Computerised Fluke Matching System for Humpback Whales
This project will result in a new computer-based photo-recognition matching system that efficiently identifies individuals and finds resights in photo-identification catalogues of humpback whales. This project builds on previous successful research using a unique multifaceted computer-based recognition system to overcome the overwhelming problems of manually matching photographs of humpback whale flukes in large catalogues. This new system provides a rapid and improved method of obtaining mark-recapture data (RP4a) for abundance estimates and trends (RP1a), individual movements and levels of interchange among populations of humpback whales (RP1c) in Australia and the South Pacific for improved management and conservation outcomes.
  • Kniest, Dr Hendrik (Eric) (CI)
  • A/Prof Peter Harrison; Mr Daniel Burns
$48,497.27 Whales Cetacean
2007 0708/12 Population status of Western Australian humpback whales, 2008
The project will complement a major existing data set from surveys undertaken in 1999 and 2005 on northward migrating humpback whales from one of seven currently recognised southern hemisphere breeding stocks (Breeding Stock D). As in 2005, there will be two components (i) an aerial survey over two months, covering the peak migration period past Shark Bay, WA, where regular aerial surveys provided relative abundance and trend information over 1982-1994; (ii) a land-based survey over a shorter period, to ‘ground-truth’ the aerial survey. The result should be an estimated current absolute abundance for this Breeding Stock, together with a comparison with 2005 and 1999 results, for use in comprehensive assessments of southern hemisphere whale stocks, essential for their conservation and rational management.
  • Bannister, Mr John (CI)
$161,590.91 Whales Cetacean
2007 0708/14 Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for surveys of marine mammals in Australia: test of concept
The conservation and management of many marine mammal populations relies on accurate and precise estimates of their abundance and distribution using aerial surveys. We aim to test whether Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) can replace manned aircraft to (1) reduce costs, (2) reduced human risk, (3) deliver superior data on detection, location, abundance and identification of marine mammal species. This project aims to (1) develop and test technology and techniques for UAV surveys and (2) conduct and compare traditional manned and UAV surveys of dugongs and humpback whales to test the viability of UAV surveys.
  • Hodgson, Dr Amanda (CI)
  • Dr Michael Noad
$79,010.91 General
2007 0708/18 Humpback whales and the impact of noise: Controlled Exposure Experiments
Previous Humpback Whale Acoustic Research Collaboration (HARC) experiments successfully developed a methodology for performing Controlled Exposure Experiments (CEEs) and measuring the behaviours of humpbacks at multiple resolutions, in a well defined study area. This project will concentrate on CEEs and (1) document the range of behavioural reactions observed by the whales, (2) measure the received acoustic levels that elicit reactions, and (3) place the range of reactions observed into the context of normal behaviours for these whales at this site. This project will improve our knowledge of the effects of anthropogenic noise on humpback whale behaviour and acoustic communication.
  • Noad, Dr Michael (CI)
  • Prof Doug Cato
$73,800.00 Whales Cetacean
2007 0708/20 Population size and distribution of Western Australian pygmy blue whales
This project will investigate the movement patterns and population size of the pygmy blue whales that aggregate off south-western Australia each autumn. Currently it is not known if these animals represent a sub-population or if they range-widely and form part of a larger population with linkage to other known aggregations in Australian waters. We will deploy small, biologically inert, implantable satellite-tags to investigate the movements of these whales and, through supplement existing data, employ genetic tagging and photo-identification data to estimate population size and the recurrence of the same individuals between years.
  • Double, Dr Michael (CI)
  • Dr Nick Gales; Curt Jenner; Micheline Jenner; Dr Luciana Möller
$40,000.00 Whales Cetacean
2007 0708/21 Population structure and sub-structure of Australian humpback whales
Through the genetic analysis of biopsy samples collected in north-western and south-eastern Australia this project aims to reveal: 1) the extent of exchange of individuals between western Australian, eastern Australian and potential linkages to adjacent Pacific populations; 2) whether whales sampled in migratory corridors along the Australian coast belong to one or more breeding populations; 3) whether temporal or spatial substructure exists within the west Australian breeding population; The data provided by this research will help to understand the impact of past whaling activity and also inform any assessment of possible impacts from the proposed lethal-take of humpback whales by the Japanese JARPA II whaling program.
  • Double, Dr Michael (CI)
  • Dr Nick Gales; Curt Jenner; Micheline Jenner; Prof C. Scott Baker
$38,181.82 Whales Cetacean
2007 0708/26 Methods for distinguishing foraging ecotypes within and among Australian sea lion subpopulations: their importance to defining genetic population structure and assisting spatial management of fisheries.
This project aims to develop and validate stable isotope methods to distinguish different foraging ecotypes (inshore and offshore) among Australian sea lion (ASL) adult females and their dependent pups, and use pup sampling to screen the foraging ecotype profiles of ASL subpopulations. Molecular genetic analysis of the same pups will then be used to assess the importance of geographic distance and foraging ecotype in defining genetic population structure. These advances will be used to improve subpopulation based foraging models to assist spatial management of fisheries, improve our understanding of genetic population structure, and develop appropriate population surveys for the species.
  • Goldsworthy, Dr Simon (CI)
  • Prof Steve Donnellan
$84,564.00 Sea Lions Pinniped
2007 0708/27 Developing population monitoring protocols to determine the abundance of Australian sea lions at key subpopulations in South Australia
Traditional methods of censusing Australian sea lion populations have used visual counts of pups during the peak of the protracted pupping season to provide a point estimate that can significantly underestimated pup production. As a consequence, quality time-series data on the status of populations are essentially absent. This proposal aims to role out a opulation survey strategy at key colonies in South Australia. These surveys will enable accurate estimation of pup roduction with confidence limits, and methods will be tailored for different sized populations. Effective management and ecovery of Australian sea lion populations will need to be underpinned by an ability to detect changes in the status of opulations over the shortest possible time-periods. This proposal builds upon a project funded by NHT/ACAMMS in 006/07 to develop new population monitoring methods for the threatened Australian sea lion.
  • Goldsworthy, Dr Simon (CI)
  • Dr Peter Shaughnessy
$59,778.00 Sea Lions Pinniped
2007 0708/28 Population-level dietary genotyping: a re-evaluation of Australian fur seal diet by pyrosequencing of prey DNA in faeces
Accurate knowledge of diet is essential for understanding marine mammal behaviour, ecosystem dynamics and potential impacts of fisheries. Traditional diet determination, through analysis of prey hard parts in faeces, is biased by differential prey recovery. Recent research shows this problem can be overcome through DNA-based faecal analysis. We will carry out a comprehensive analysis of prey DNA sequences in faeces collected from the Australian fur seal, Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus, using recently developed pyrosequencing technology. This novel approach of population-level dietary genotyping will provide a new perspective on diet of a key marine predator in Australian waters and provide a template for future diet studies on other pinnipeds, whales and dolphins.
  • Deagle, Dr Bruce (CI)
$56,818.18 Seals Pinniped
2006 0607/4 An ecological approach to determining blue whale abundance, critical habitat and seismic impacts in the Bonney Upwelling
Using aerial surveys, small vessel tagging and behavioural studies, and satellite remote sensing, this program aims to understand the population status of and habitat use by foraging and feeding blue whales in the Bonney Upwelling blue whale feeding ground and adjacent waters. This work will also increase our understanding of baseline behaviour, partly to assess effects of proposed seismic exposure experiments. This is a globally important feeding ground for this endangered species, and this work will enhance our understanding of blue whales’ habitat requirements, improve our ability to monitor their status, and better allow us to assess their responses to human disturbance.
  • Gill, Mr Peter (CI)
  • Margie Morrice
$47,363.64 Whales Cetacean
2006 0607/9 Interaction between the demersal gillnet fisheries and Australian sea lions in Western Australia
Demersal gillnet fisheries in Australia have reported a level of incidental mortality of the “Vulnerable” Australian sea lion (ASL) in Western Australia. Australian sea lions forage extensively on the benthic habitats of the continental shelf from shallow waters (<20m) to the shelf edge (~200m), overlapping with the demersal gillnet fisheries. This project will determine the foraging ranges of ASL sub-populations and how they overlap with the fishing effort as determined by logbooks and vessel monitoring systems used in the fishery to provide information for potential mitigation of bycatch through temporal/spatial management options.
  • Campbell, Dr Richard (CI)
$102,500.00 Sea Lions Pinniped
2006 0607/12 Investigative development of minimally invasive means to gather demographic information in cetacea: A comprehensive comparative approach
This project is examining telomere dynamics in cetaceans and the potential to use them to gather demographic information for individuals (i.e. age estimates) or species (i.e. ontogenetic longevity estimates) in a minimally invasive fashion, from a small skin sample. If telomeres prove effective biomarkers for either/both of these demographic facets, they can provide a means to gather useful demographic data that otherwise can rarely be gathered from live individuals (i.e. age estimates) or as of yet do not exist (i.e. longevity information for Southern Right Whales and others), both of which are important parameters in quantifying status and assessing impacts on populations.
  • Hindell, A/Prof Mark (CI)
  • Dr Glenn Dunshea
$21,044.00 Whales and dolphins Cetacean
2006 0607/13 Developing population monitoring protocols for Australian sea lions
Traditional methods of censusing Australian sea lion populations have used visual counts of pups during the peak of the protracted pupping season to provide a point estimate that can significantly underestimate pup production. As a consequence, quality time-series data on the status of populations are essentially absent. Effective management and recovery of Australian sea lion populations will need to be underpinned by an ability to detect changes in the status of populations over the shortest possible time-periods. This proposal builds upon a project funded by NHT/MSRP in 2006 to develop new population monitoring methods for the threatened Australian sea lion.
  • Goldsworthy, Dr Simon (CI)
  • Peter Shaughnessy
$68,940.00 Sea Lions Pinniped
2006 0607/15 Population genetic structure of long-finned pilot whales in Tasmania and social dynamics of mass strandings
The phenomenon of cetacean mass strandings remains poorly understood, despite the tremendous efforts often devoted to the rescue attempts during these tragic events. We propose to investigate the population structure and social dynamics of long-finned pilot whales - the primary species involved in mass strandings, by combining ecological and genetic information from more than 600 samples collected in Tasmania and New Zealand. This study is expected to provide new information on the status of pilot whale populations around Tasmania and New Zealand and advice for improved management of animal welfare in future stranding events.
  • Baker, Dr Scott (CI)
  • Mark Oremus
$36,300.00 Whales Cetacean
2006 0607/20 Establishment of an Australian centre for marine mammal age determination using tooth structure: a case study using bottlenose dolphin teeth to investigate the relationships of age, reproductive status and toxic contaminant levels in South Australia.
Understanding the dynamics of populations and impacts of human interactions requires knowledge of individuals’ ages. Few people in Australia have the expertise to prepare and analyse marine mammal teeth for age estimation. Establishing a centre for this technique and running a workshop would alleviate the difficulties and costliness of sending researchers and/or specimens overseas. The South Australian Museum is well placed to house a centre for tooth aging since it has Australia’s largest and most comprehensive marine mammal collection, and an active research program. A study on bottlenose dolphins aims to relate age to toxic contaminant levels and life history data, information that does not exist for Australia and is necessary for conservation and management of inshore dolphins.
  • Kemper, Dr Catherine (CI)
  • Karen Evans
$40,228.18 Dolphins Cetacean
2006 0607/23 Monitoring medium and large-scale movements of baleen whales using satellite telemetry
The AGAD is developing a small, biologically inert, blubber-implantable satellite tag to monitor the movements of baleen whales, in particular humpback, blue and southern right whales. The effective development of a capacity to determine the movements of large cetaceans will enable researchers to address major components of federal and state based conservation management plans, as well as provide data and advice to international fora. More specifically, the satellite telemetry of blue whales and southern right whales is detailed as a high priority in the respective recovery plans. The tracking of these and other whales is also noted as a priority in the Action Plan for Australian Cetaceans.
  • Gales, Dr Nick (CI)
  • Curt Jenner; Micheline Jenner
$53,636.36 Whales Cetacean
2006 0607/25 Population dynamics of right whales off southern Australia
The project will complete a major existing aerial survey long-term data set from which information has been accruing annually, off southern Western Australia over 30 years, and off southern Australia (C Leeuwin WA - Ceduna SA) for the past 14 years (the latter due for completion after 15 years in 2007). It will maximise return on past research investment, and contribute towards management and conservation of right whales in Australian waters by providing: a) quantitative information on current rate of increase and population size of Australian right whales b) information on other population parameters essential for stock assessment
  • Bannister, Mr John (CI)
$48,863.64 Whales Cetacean
2006 0607/31 The distribution and abundance of the dugong in Gulf of Carpentaria waters: a basis for cross-jurisdictional conservation planning and management
This project will conduct the first cross-jurisdictional aerial survey of the entire coastal waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria for dugongs to provide: (1) a robust estimate of sustainable anthropogenic mortality of dugongs for the region surveyed, (2) a geo-referenced map of dugong distribution and abundance, and (3) statistical comparisons with previous surveys of parts of the region to inform: (1) the National Approach to Sustainable Harvest of Marine Turtles and Dugongs in Australia, (2) Marine Bioregional Planning in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and (3) initiatives to reduce bycatch in the Gulf’s inshore gill net fisheries.
  • Marsh, Prof Helene (CI)
  • Keith Saalfield
$132,000.00 Dugong Sirenian
2006 0607/32 A spatially explicit population model to inform negotiations between Traditional Owners and the relevant management agencies about options to manage the dugong fishery in Torres Strait
A spatial model of dugong distribution and relative density in Torres Strait will be produced from data integrated across six aerial surveys from 1987-2006. The resultant map will be provided to Islander communities and management agencies to inform negotiations about shared responsibility strategies for ensuring that the Torres Strait dugong fishery is sustainable as part of the National Approach to Sustainable Harvest of Marine Turtles and Dugongs in Australia. The spatial model will also be used to determine if nutrient density of seagrass is a major forcing factor of dugong distribution and relative abundance in Torres Strait.
  • Marsh, Prof Helene (CI)
  • Alana Grech
$19,000.00 Dugong Sirenian
2006 0607/34 Determining critical reproductive parameters for a subtropical dugong population
This PhD project will develop methodologies to assess the reproductive state of wild dugongs via non-invasive hormonal profiles in exhaled air and faeces, and will calibrate these profiles against saliva and blood. These data will be used along with gender, body size and social association data gathered during mark-recapture studies, to determine the reproductive status of individual dugongs. Life history parameters determined during this study will be incorporated into a population study of dugongs in Moreton Bay, southern Queensland. An understanding of reproductive behaviour and biology is crucial if we are to develop useful models of population dynamics.
  • Lanyon, Dr Janet (CI)
$12,409.09 Dugong Sirenian
2006 0607/35 Gene-tagging the dugongs of southern Queensland to determine population dynamics, relatedness and movements.
This project will gene-tag dugongs in Moreton, Hervey and Shoalwater Bays to obtain key information on the structure, dynamics, connectedness and stock size of these ‘urban’ dugong populations in southern Queensland. Microsatellite DNA from skin and faecal biopsies will be used to individually identify dugongs and sex specific primers used to determine gender. These remote sampling techniques will allow us to rapidly identify and characterise a significant proportion of each population. Population genetic analysis will be used to define regional management units for dugongs in southern Queensland, identify migration between these major populations and determine stock size(s) and composition.
  • Lanyon, Dr Janet (CI)
  • Jenny Ovenden
$55,870.91 Dugong Sirenian
2006 0607/40 Abundance estimates of the east Australian humpback whale population
The east Australian humpback whales were hunted to near-extinction in the early 1960s. Since the early 1980s land-based abundance surveys have been conducted at Point Lookout off Brisbane where most of the whales pass close to land. The last survey was performed in 2004 and in order to continue monitoring the recovery of this population, we propose conducting a short survey in 2007. Absolute abundance estimates have historically relied on a number of assumptions concerning the offshore distribution and detectability of passing whales and we also propose to test some of these assumptions with concurrent aerial surveys. Results of these will enable us to improve the accuracy of future absolute abundance surveys. Concurrent acoustic recordings of the passing whales will also be used to help develop acoustic census techniques.
  • Noad, Dr Michael (CI)
  • Douglas Cato
$63,709.09 Whales Cetacean
2006 0607/41 Novel genetic markers for stock identification of blue whales and genetic differentiation between the two main Australian feeding aggregations
We will develop nuclear microsatellite genetic markers specific for blue whales, which will provide powerful tools for identifying stocks of blue whales worldwide and, potentially, as diagnostic markers for differentiating subspecies. We will also infer population genetic structure of the two main Australian feeding aggregations using mtDNA control region sequences and a large panel of microsatellite markers to investigate potential genetic subdivision between areas. This study will fulfil one of the actions of the Blue Whale Recovery Plan by gathering information on population structure and therefore providing indicators of structure to be incorporated into models for measuring recovery and status.
  • Moller, Dr Luciana (CI)
$57,135.45 Whales Cetacean
2006 0607/42 Genetic stock identification of southern right whales off the south coast of Australia: phase 2
Delineation of stock boundaries is fundamental to management of protected species. For the southern right whale, determining the level of genetic interchange is essential to accurately assess population status and rates of change, to evaluate impact of anthropogenic threats eg entanglements or boat strikes, and to delineate critical habitat in Australian waters. The primary objective is for on-going collection of genetic samples from remnant populations. This will be used to formulate a larger study that will be used to identify genetic stock structure and the level of gene flow between localities across southern Australia.
  • Harcourt, A/Prof Rob (CI)
  • Nathalie Pantenaude
$21,000.00 Whales Cetacean