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MUCRU’s North West Australian Marine Mammal Research: 2013 and beyond

Allen, S., Hodgson, A., Brown, A., Smith, J., Bejder, L., Pollock, K. and Loneragan, N. (2013) MUCRU’s North West Australian Marine Mammal Research: 2013 and beyond. In: North West Australia Marine Science Symposium, 21 February, Fremantle, Western Australia.

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Abstract

The Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit is conducting research into marine mammal biology and ecology within a number of broad programs across Australia’s north-western bioregion. These programs include assessing: population dynamics and behaviour (abundance estimation, social structure, genetic structure and population connectivity); anthropogenic impacts (fisheries bycatch, tourism and coastal development); ecosystem interactions (foraging ecology, trophic interactions, habitat modelling, protected areas); marine mammal health (e.g. pathology, eco-toxicology, parasitology); and, new approaches to research (remote methods for abundance estimation, statistical modelling, and citizen science). The Australian Marine Mammal Centre, Chevron, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and WAMSI II have funded this research.

MUCRU’s programs are being applied to numerous taxa at specific locations from the Gascoyne to the eastern Kimberley coast. In the Gascoyne, long-term behavioural, genetic and acoustic research on Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins is ongoing in Shark Bay. The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to conduct surveys of marine megafauna (including dugongs and humpback whales) is also occurring in Shark Bay and, potentially, further north. This year, a dedicated program will commence on Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins around the North West Cape. Aerial surveys of dugongs are being conducted from Exmouth Gulf to Barrow Island and dugongs are being satellite tagged off Onslow. Research into population dynamics and the impact of commercial fishing on common bottlenose dolphins is being carried out off the Pilbara coast, while ongoing work on the genetic connectivity of bottlenose, humpback and snubfin dolphins takes place in the Pilbara’s nearshore habitats. Across the Kimberley coast, we are studying little known populations of snubfin, humpback, bottlenose and spinner dolphins, using standardised sampling regimes, such as boat-based transects, photographic identification and biopsy sampling. This will provide the first robust estimates of abundance of snubfin and humpback dolphins anywhere in Western Australia. Our research on these species will diversify this year with the introduction of passive acoustic monitoring techniques.

We are working with a number of internationally renowned adjuncts associated with, for example, Duke University, University of Zurich, Aarhus University, University of Southern Denmark and North Carolina State University. Australian and Western Australian collaborating institutions include James Cook University, University of New South Wales, Australian National University, Flinders University and Curtin University.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
Conference Website: http://www.wamsi.org.au/2013/north-west-australia-...
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/15162
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