[MARMAM] Masters thesis project opportunity: fin whale behaviour and ship strikes

Dylan Walker dylanhwalker at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Jan 29 15:43:09 PST 2009

Dear Marmamers,
UK-based charity ORCA – Organisation Cetacea (www.orcaweb.org.uk) is offering a field research opportunity for a student wishing to complete a Masters thesis on behalf of the charity, entitled: 
Understanding fin whale behaviour as a tool for mitigating against large ship strikes
Ship strikes cause serious injuries and mortalities to whales worldwide, and are widely implicated as a major factor affecting the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) population. Despite this, world shipping activity is predicted to increase by 30% to 50% by 2030. The speed and size of vessels is also expected to increase dramatically, with 30% of the world’s shipping fleet expected to be too large to pass through the Panama Canal by 2020. 
ORCA believes that more research is required to assess how whales behave in relation to large vessels, and has developed a project designed to provide a basis for future research with consequent recommendations to commercial operators to reduce the likelihood of ship strikes. 
ORCA therefore seeks a Masters student to take part in this pioneering project to be run in partnership with ferry company Brittany Ferries (www.brittany-ferries.co.uk). The chosen researcher will work onboard Brittany Ferries flagship ferry Pont Aven, operating between Portsmouth (UK), Santander (Spain) and Plymouth (UK), and travelling through the Bay of Biscay. The field season will last for a 6 week period between July and September, which is the season of highest density of large whales (mostly fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus)) in the Bay of Biscay. The project will involve studying the location and behaviour of large whales throughout the season using GPS, video recordings, and field observations, in order to assess how the behaviour of the whales varies spatially, temporally and in relation to the proximity of the vessel. 
Please note that ORCA and Brittany Ferries only have resources to provide food and accommodation whilst onboard ship. All other expenses, including travel expenses, must be borne by the participant. ORCA will also provide logistical support during the field season, but all scientific support must be provided by the educational institution represented by the Masters student. Equipment provision is also the responsibility of the student, most notably a video camera. 
We would like to thank Brittany Ferries for allowing ORCA this opportunity. This project is part of a wider environmental programme operated by ORCA and Brittany Ferries, which includes long term monitoring of cetaceans and the presence of a marine education officer beginning in April 2009.
How to apply
Please send an email to Dylan Walker at dylan at orcaweb.org.uk detailing your experience, your current Masters course, the scientific support available at your educational establishment, and why you are interested to take on this project as your Masters thesis. 

Dylan Walker
Project Development Manager
ORCA - Organisation Cetacea
Email: dylan at orcaweb.org.uk
17 Embassy Court
Kings Road
Mob: +44 (0)7900 471490
Web: www.orcaweb.org.uk

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