In March, I spent two weeks in the field studying N. Pacific humpback whales in their breeding and calving grounds in the waters off Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe.
The first week focused on studying male humpback whale singers by measuring the acoustic characteristics of their song and addressing the question of whether an individual singer’s rendition of the song is indicative of his fitness (as measured by body size) and fertility (as measured through analysis of testosterone level). The work is a collaborative project with my good friend and long-time colleague Dr. Marc Lammers research coordinator of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
Marc and I also deployed acoustic recording suction cup tags on whales in different behavioral roles to better understand the acoustics, energetics, behavior and habitat use of these majestic giants. Overall this season, we measured more than a dozen whales and our suction cup tags accompanied the humpbacks for many hours.
To do any of these complex studies requires a true team effort whether directly on the water or assisting with equipment, and we were fortunate to have on our crew my UH Hilo grad students Trisha Alvarez, Sabena Siddiqui, and Hilary Street Scott, UH Manoa Doctoral candidate Anke Kügler, Eden Zang of Oceanwide Science Institute, our awesome boat captains Ted and Sarah, and Lacey, Dani of Trilogy and Mark Deakos of HAMER.
In addition to gathering lots of great data on singers and suction cup tagged whales, it was thrilling to find one of the whales in our archival catalog as an adult back in 2004 in Maui and another(dogface) in 2007 in Frederick Sound, Alaska.
Last, but certainly not least we were blessed to have a great film crew accompanying us from PBS South Florida to document the science for a new documentary to air this June for the series “Changing Seas”. Thanks Alexa, Sean, and David for truly caring about getting the science right! And thanks everyone near and far for their continued support of the dolphin institute and uh hilo whale project. After 25 years with the humpbacks, it simply never gets old! All research and images were obtained under NOAA Federal Research Permit 19655 to A.A. Pack.