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Whales from space: four mysticete species described using new VHR satellite imagery

Whales from space: four mysticete species described using new VHR satellite imagery
Whales from space: four mysticete species described using new VHR satellite imagery

Large-bodied animals such as baleen whales can now be detected with very high resolution (VHR) satellite imagery, allowing for scientific studies of whales in remote and inaccessible areas where traditional survey methods are limited or impractical. Here we present the first study of baleen whales using the WorldView-3 satellite, which has a maximum spatial resolution of 31 cm in the panchromatic band, the highest currently available to nonmilitary professionals. We manually detected, described, and counted four different mysticete species: fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) in the Ligurian Sea, humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off Hawaii, southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) off Península Valdés, and gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) in Laguna San Ignacio. Visual and spectral analyses were conducted for each species, their surrounding waters, and nonwhale objects (e.g., boats). We found that behavioral and morphological differences made some species more distinguishable than others. Fin and gray whales were the easiest to discern due to their contrasting body coloration with surrounding water, and their prone body position, which is proximal to the sea surface (i.e., body parallel to the sea surface). These results demonstrate the feasibility of using VHR satellite technology for monitoring the great whales.

Balaenoptera physalus, baleen whale, Eschrichtius robustus, Eubalaena australis, Megaptera novaeangliae, mysticete, remote sensing, VHR satellite imagery
0824-0469
1-26
Cubaynes, Hannah C.
1d4a3eba-025c-401a-a6b6-afcb5818918a
Fretwell, Peter T.
fbab7bac-4eef-4e01-b53e-91def3eb4cee
Bamford, Connor
c15e07ee-11dd-48bc-8d0d-c66e5628537e
Gerrish, Laura
26bc9b72-12f9-477c-a0f5-6565a37e9138
Jackson, Jennifer A.
613674ff-0834-438f-9537-7939b1b3cf4f
Cubaynes, Hannah C.
1d4a3eba-025c-401a-a6b6-afcb5818918a
Fretwell, Peter T.
fbab7bac-4eef-4e01-b53e-91def3eb4cee
Bamford, Connor
c15e07ee-11dd-48bc-8d0d-c66e5628537e
Gerrish, Laura
26bc9b72-12f9-477c-a0f5-6565a37e9138
Jackson, Jennifer A.
613674ff-0834-438f-9537-7939b1b3cf4f

Cubaynes, Hannah C., Fretwell, Peter T., Bamford, Connor, Gerrish, Laura and Jackson, Jennifer A. (2018) Whales from space: four mysticete species described using new VHR satellite imagery. Marine Mammal Science, 1-26. (doi:10.1111/mms.12544).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Large-bodied animals such as baleen whales can now be detected with very high resolution (VHR) satellite imagery, allowing for scientific studies of whales in remote and inaccessible areas where traditional survey methods are limited or impractical. Here we present the first study of baleen whales using the WorldView-3 satellite, which has a maximum spatial resolution of 31 cm in the panchromatic band, the highest currently available to nonmilitary professionals. We manually detected, described, and counted four different mysticete species: fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) in the Ligurian Sea, humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off Hawaii, southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) off Península Valdés, and gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) in Laguna San Ignacio. Visual and spectral analyses were conducted for each species, their surrounding waters, and nonwhale objects (e.g., boats). We found that behavioral and morphological differences made some species more distinguishable than others. Fin and gray whales were the easiest to discern due to their contrasting body coloration with surrounding water, and their prone body position, which is proximal to the sea surface (i.e., body parallel to the sea surface). These results demonstrate the feasibility of using VHR satellite technology for monitoring the great whales.

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Cubaynes et al 2018 Marine Mammal Science - Version of Record
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 8 July 2018
e-pub ahead of print date: 27 October 2018
Keywords: Balaenoptera physalus, baleen whale, Eschrichtius robustus, Eubalaena australis, Megaptera novaeangliae, mysticete, remote sensing, VHR satellite imagery

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 425986
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/425986
ISSN: 0824-0469
PURE UUID: 8dcaec6d-fe19-43e5-a02c-c7a1d20e7a1c

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 09 Nov 2018 17:30
Last modified: 13 Mar 2019 17:50

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