[MARMAM] Seeking MMOs for deployment on expedition tour vessels in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Angus Henderson afhender at gmail.com
Mon Jan 11 14:31:02 PST 2021

These positions are unpaid at this stage, however, all travel to and from
departure locations, food and accommodation costs will be covered.
Deployments are across the Antarctic summer period, for a period of 8-12
weeks (further details below).

*Brief Background*

Representing the most rapidly warming region of Antarctica, the western
Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) has a rapidly growing tourist industry and krill
fishery (Bender et al., 2016; Schumann et al., 2013; Spence et al., 2017).
Its ecological significance has been recognised internationally and is the
focus of efforts to establish a Marine Protected Area. As many species
recover from past exploitation, it is important to understand the patterns
of distribution and relative abundance of marine predators on regional
scales. While considerable effort has been expended on understanding key
land-based krill predators such as penguins and seals (e.g., Boyd, 2002),
there has been wide acknowledgement that information on the temporal and
spatial distribution and abundance of cetaceans and other marine mammals
not amenable to land-based study is lacking (IWC Report 2019). Antarctic
whale stocks were hunted to commercial extinction in 20th century (Rocha et
al., 2014) and are understood to be recovering variably (e.g., for humpback
whales, *see* Constantine et al., 2014; Fleming and Jackson, 2011; Noad et
al., 2019; Olavarría et al., 2007). Yet relatively little is known of the
abundance and distribution of baleen whales in the Southern Ocean foraging

Distance sampling sets a gold standard for estimating marine mammal
abundance and distribution (Williams et al., 2006). Yet broad-scale
distance sampling surveys are prohibitively expensive in remote Southern
Ocean waters and often produces only one survey estimate per season, that
is subsequently used to characterise the entirety of that season. With
commitments from several Antarctic tour operators, we set out to build on
the pilot survey program initiated during the 2019-2020 season by
standardising a scientifically peer-reviewed distance sampling protocol for
estimation of at-sea cetacean abundance and distribution.

Specific Aims:

(i)             Can platforms of opportunity-based distance sampling
efforts be improved and standardised in order to contribute to
understanding Southern Ocean cetacean status and trends.

(ii)            What physical ocean properties, environmental variables
and/or krill predictors drive cetacean abundance and distribution at
temporal scales ranging from within-season to interannual.

(iii)          What is the total consumption rate of krill by baleen whales
relative to land-based krill predators and human krill harvest, and how
does this relate to what we know of krill abundance and distribution in
time and space?

*The roles*

We are seeking expressions of interest and commitments (where possible)
from volunteers with experience as marine mammal observers or those
interested in becoming one. This is your opportunity to be one of the very
few people in the world that go to Antarctica. You will have exposure to
the wealth of wildlife and stunning landscapes that make this part of the
Southern Ocean so special and the opportunity to ‘be a tourist’ at times
during the voyage (potentially including landings). Sets of two observers
(one trained/experienced lead MMO and one in training MMO) will be deployed
from Ushuaia and Punta Arenas on expedition tour vessel (200-500
passengers) across the Antarctic summer (Nov-March) in the 2021/22 and
2022/23 season. We are seeking a commitment of 8-12 weeks; this will
include several (3-6) voyages to the Antarctic Peninsula (potentially via
South Georgia, the Falkland islands/ Islas Malvinas and/or South Orkney
Islands), aboard tour vessels. Preference will be given to residents of
Chile and Argentina, and those in closer proximity to voyages departure
locations (Ushuaia and Punta Arenas).

Observers will take distance sampling measurements of whales and other
marine mammals from the bridge of the vessels. MMOs will need to remain
focused and on task for many hours, and at times work to weather windows
across an 18-hour day. It is critical MMOs are organised, focused, take
accurate field recording, and remain on task. Lead MMOs will be responsible
for dictating field effort in response to weather, ensuring quality control
and data management.

Both MMOs will also be required to give a seminar/lecture to guests on
board the vessel as part of our agreement in securing berths for observers.
MMOs will be required to complete a basic level of induction and training
(provided), including the study of marine mammals and birds of the
south-east Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean.


·      Professional attitude

·      Excellent verbal, written and interpersonal communication skills

·      Self-motivated with attention to detail

·      Must have the ability to conduct tasks independently

·      Ability to maintain focus and input accurate data

·      Knowledge of marine ecosystems

·      High stamina and enthusiasm for the role

·      Tertiary education in marine science (or another related field)

·      Fluent in English, writing and speaking.

Preference for those with experience

·      In taking distance sampling measurements

·      In marine mammal/sea-bird observation at-sea

·      Identifying Southern Ocean seabirds

·      At sea

Preference to residents of Argentina and Chile and they are encouraged to

To register your expression of interest/apply please reply with a cover
letter stating why you want the role, how your skills and experience apply
and what you hope to get out of it (300-500 words) and a resume detailing
your experience (1 page) including the name and contact details of 2
references and/or a short letter of recommendation.

If you have any questions or want to know more about the role, please
contact me, angus.henderson at utas.edu.au
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