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Cara Hotchkin, 2006 Summer Student Fellow

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Cara Hotchkin

Summer Student Fellow

University of Rhode Island
B.S. Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography (2007)
B.S. Coastal and Marine Policy and Management (2007)

Biology Department
Advisor: Peter Tyack

Project:  Possible Heading Changes in North Atlantic Right Whales (Eubalena glacialis) When Approached by Small boats.

Related NOAA Strategic Plan Goal

Goal 1. Protect, restore and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources through ecosystem-based management.

Goal 4. Support the Nation’s commerce with information for safe, efficient, and environmentally sound transportation.


Activity Report

My project for the summer is to determine whether North Atlantic Right Whales respond to
small vessel approaches by changing direction or turning. To do this, I am analyzing data
gathered by Dr. Douglas Nowacek in the Bay of Fundy in Canada during the 2005 field season.

The data was gathered using Digital Acoustic Recording Tags (DTAGs), developed by Mark
Johnson and Peter Tyack. The DTAG records the animal’s depth, orientation (pitch, roll, and
compass heading), and any sounds in the water around the whale on the same time scales,
allowing for accurate analysis of the animal’s behavioral reactions to experimental noises.

I have been plotting the tracks of the approaching vessel and the whales, to see if the animal
changes orientation when the boat is nearby, and, if it does, whether the animal orients towards
or away from the vessel. I also intend to plot the level of sound received by the animal against
the animal’s angular range (compass heading), to determine if sound level is a factor in whether
there is a response by the animal.

I have also been familiarizing myself with cetacean biology and anatomy by attending necropsies
when possible. This will enable me to gain a better understanding of what may or may not
affect the animals in their natural environment.

Last updated: August 19, 2008

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