[MARMAM] New publication - humpback whales and spatial models

Peter Corkeron pcorkero at mercury.wh.whoi.edu
Tue Oct 25 08:58:03 PDT 2011

Fellow Marmamers

I'm pleased to announce the publication of a new paper, "Spatial models 
of sparse data to inform cetacean conservation planning: an example from 
Oman ", by myself, Gianna Minton, Tim Collins, Ken Findlay, Andy Willson 
and Robert Baldwin.

The paper is out in the latest issue of Endangered Species Research, and 
is part of the ESR Special on "Beyond Marine Mammal Habitat Modeling: 
Applications For Ecology And Conservation". It's Open Access and can be 
downloaded from the Endangered Species Research website at:


Note that the modeling technique outlined in the paper can reduce 
spatial autocorrelation due to haphazard sampling, making it likely 
useful for other photo-identification studies, or those conducted from 
platforms of opportunity (e.g. whale-watching vessels).

The Abstract is:

Habitat models are tools for understanding the relationship between 
cetaceans and their environment, from which patterns of the animals' 
space use can be inferred and management strategies developed. Can 
working with space use alone be sufficient for management, when habitat 
cannot be modeled? Here, we analyzed cetacean sightings data collected 
from small boat surveys off the coast of Oman between 2000 and 2003. The 
waters off Oman are used by the Endangered Arabian Sea population of 
humpback whales. Our data were collected primarily for 
photo-identification, using a haphazard sampling regime, either in areas 
where humpback whales were thought to be relatively abundant, or in 
areas that were logistically easy to survey. This leads to spatially 
autocorrelated data that are not amenable to analysis using standard 
approaches. We used quasi-Poisson generalized linear models and 
semi-parametric spatial filtering to assess the distribution of humpback 
and Bryde's whales in 3 areas off Oman relative to 3 simple 
physiographic variables in a survey grid. Our analysis focused on the 
spatial eigenvector filtering of models, coupled with the spatial 
distribution of model residuals, rather than just on model predictions. 
Spatial eigenvector filtering accounts for spatial autocorrelation in 
models, allowing inference to be made regarding the relative importance 
of particular areas. As an exemplar of this approach, we demonstrate 
that the Dhofar coast of southern Oman is important habitat for the 
Arabian Sea population of humpback whales. We also suggest how 
conservation planning for mitigating impacts on humpback whales off the 
Dhofar coast could start.

Peter Corkeron

Leader, Large Whale Team
Protected Species Branch
NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center
166 Water St
Woods Hole MA 02543

phone: 508-495-2191

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