Olivia Pisano Research Summary

North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) are an endangered species of baleen whale that is endemic to the North Atlantic Ocean. With its population severely depleted from historical whaling, the global population size is currently estimated to be around 400 individuals. Right whales typically migrate annually from their winter calving grounds in Florida and Georgia in the United States to northern feeding and nursery grounds in the Gulf of Maine, Bay of Fundy, and the Scotian Shelf. In recent years, these whales have been observed more frequently in other parts of the Northwest Atlantic, such as the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Although several known habitats for right whales have been identified, the movements of these whales between habitats are not well understood, with large parts of the population unaccounted for in certain seasons. In addition, vessel strikes and entanglement in commercial fishing gear account for a large percentage of right whale mortalities. To adequately protect right whales from the variety of anthropogenic threats they face, a complete understanding of the seasonal movements of this endangered species is needed. Traditional survey methods for marine mammals are costly, time-consuming, difficult to coordinate, and often not present in all of the regions where they are needed most. Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite imagery has been successfully implemented to assess a variety of wildlife populations, including emperor penguins, polar bears, seals, and some whale species. This tool can be used worldwide to deliver high-quality images in a shorter time and at a lower cost compared to traditional survey methods. As such, it has the potential to revolutionize how we track, monitor, and ultimately protect whale populations.

 

My PhD project aims to develop an automated census method using VHR satellite imagery and deep learning algorithms to automatically detect, identify, and count whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This methodology can be used to answer important biological questions about the distribution and conservation of right whales and other baleen whale species.

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Olivia Pisano
Ph.D. Candidate, Dalhousie University
Email: Olivia.Pisano@dal.ca
Phone: +1 902 494 2478 (office)

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Boris Worm (Dalhousie University) Canada

TYPE/STATUS OF PROJECT

Scientific research (In progress)

Contact Information
Principal Investigator
Olivia Pisano
Ph.D. Candidate
Biology Department Dalhousie University
1459 Oxford St.
PO BOX 15000
Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
Canada
Supervisor
Boris Worm
Professor
Biology Department Dalhousie University
1355 Oxford St.
PO BOX 15000
Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
Canada