A citizen science approach to long-term monitoring of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off Sydney, Australia

Pirotta, Vanessa, Reynolds, Wayne, Ross, Geoffrey, Jonsen, Ian, Grech, Alana, Slip, David, and Harcourt, Robert (2019) A citizen science approach to long-term monitoring of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off Sydney, Australia. Marine Mammal Science, 36 (2). pp. 472-485.

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Abstract

The Cape Solander Whale Migration Study is a citizen science project that annually counts northward migrating humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off Cape Solander, Sydney, Australia. Dedicated observers have compiled a 20-year data set (1997-2017) of shore-based observations from Cape Solander's high vantage point. Using this long-term data set collected by citizen scientists, we sought to estimate the humpback whale population trend as it continues to recover postexploitation. We estimated an exponential growth rate of 0.099 (95% CI = 0.079-0.119) using a generalized linear model, based on observer effort (number of observation days) and number of whales observed, equating to 10% per annum growth in sightings since 1997. We found that favorable weather conditions for spotting whales off Cape Solander consisted of winds <30 km/hr from a southerly through a north westerly direction. Incidental observations of other cetacean species included the endangered blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) and data deficient species such as killer whales (Orcinus orca) and false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens). Citizen science-based studies can provide a cost-effective approach to monitoring wildlife over the time necessary to detect change in a population. Information obtained from citizen science projects like this may help inform policy makers responsible for State and Federal protection of cetaceans in Australian waters and beyond.

Item ID: 60853
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1748-7692
Keywords: citizen science, conservation, count, humpback whale, long-term monitoring, Megaptera novaeangliae, migration
Copyright Information: © 2019 Society for Marine Mammalogy
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2019 07:33
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 60%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060207 Population Ecology @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
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