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Saint Andrews, United Kingdom

Bailey H.,SMRU Ltd | Bailey H.,University of Aberdeen | Bailey H.,University of Maryland Center for Environmental science | Hammond P.S.,University of St. Andrews | Thompson P.M.,University of Aberdeen
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology | Year: 2014

Technological developments over the last 20. years have meant that telemetry studies have used a variety of techniques, each with different levels of accuracy and temporal resolution. This presents a challenge when combining data from these different tracking systems to obtain larger sample sizes or to compare habitat use over time. In this study, we used a Bayesian state-space modelling approach to integrate tracking data from multiple tag types and standardise position estimates while accounting for location error. Harbour seal (. Phoca vitulina) telemetry data for the Moray Firth, Scotland, were collated from three tag types: VHF, Argos satellite and GPS-GSM. Tags were deployed on 37 seals during 1989 to 2009 resulting in 37 tracks with a total of 2886 tracking days and a mean duration of 87. days per track. A state-space model was applied to all of the raw tracks to provide daily position estimates and a measure of the uncertainty for each position. We used this standardised tracking dataset to model their habitat use and preference, which was then scaled by the population size estimated from haul-out counts to give an estimate of the absolute number of harbour seals using different parts of the Moray Firth. As expected for a central place forager, harbour seals most frequently occurred in areas close to their inshore haul-out sites. However, our analyses also demonstrated consistent use of offshore foraging grounds, typically within 30. km of haul-out sites in waters <. 50. m deep. The use of these statistical models to integrate and compare different datasets is especially important for assessing longer-term responses to environmental variation and anthropogenic activities, allowing management advice to be based upon datasets that integrate information from all available tracking technologies. © 2013 Elsevier B.V. Source

Thompson P.M.,University of Aberdeen | Hastie G.D.,SMRU Ltd | Nedwell J.,Subacoustech Environmental Ltd. | Barham R.,Subacoustech Environmental Ltd. | And 4 more authors.
Environmental Impact Assessment Review | Year: 2013

Offshore wind farm developments may impact protected marine mammal populations, requiring appropriate assessment under the EU Habitats Directive. We describe a framework developed to assess population level impacts of disturbance from piling noise on a protected harbour seal population in the vicinity of proposed wind farm developments in NE Scotland. Spatial patterns of seal distribution and received noise levels are integrated with available data on the potential impacts of noise to predict how many individuals are displaced or experience auditory injury. Expert judgement is used to link these impacts to changes in vital rates and applied to population models that compare population changes under baseline and construction scenarios over a 25. year period. We use published data and hypothetical piling scenarios to illustrate how the assessment framework has been used to support environmental assessments, explore the sensitivity of the framework to key assumptions, and discuss its potential application to other populations of marine mammals. © 2013 The Authors. Source

Rosen D.A.S.,University of British Columbia | Tollit D.J.,University of British Columbia | Tollit D.J.,SMRU Ltd
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2012

Quantitative fatty acid signature analysis (QFASA) has been proposed as a technique for determining the long-term diet of animals. The method compares the fatty acid (FA) profiles of predators and potential prey items to estimate relative prey intake. We tested the assumptions of a key step in QFASA, the correction of predator FA signatures for metabolic processes through sets of calibration coefficients (CCs). We conducted long-term controlled feeding studies with captive Steller sea lions consuming herring and eulachon and northern fur seals consuming herring. We compared the results with data from harbour seals eating herring to evaluate the effects of phylogeny and prey type on individual CCs. Even within the limited extended dietary FA subset recommended for use by other researchers, we found that at least 41% of the CCs differed by family (otariid vs. phocid seals) and 58% differed by predator species (sea lion vs. fur seal), suggesting that CCs may be highly species-specific. We also found that 64% of the CCs differed by prey type (sea lions consuming herring vs. eulachon), which raises some fundamental implementation issues. We also found significant differences in diet predictions when the herring- and eulachon-derived sets of CCs were applied to an actual multi-species diet. CCs are presently used as a simple mathematical attempt to describe potentially complex biochemistry. The results of this study raise questions regarding the validity of using CCs derived from an alternative predator species, and highlight some fundamental issues regarding QFASA methodology that need to be addressed through further controlled studies. © Inter-Research 2012. Source

Leaper R.,International Fund for Animal Welfare | Burt L.,University of St. Andrews | Gillespie D.,University of St. Andrews | Macleod K.,SMRU Ltd
Journal of Cetacean Research and Management | Year: 2010

Photogrammetric systems using video cameras were used to measure radialdistances to sightings during the SCANS-II, CODA and SOWER surveys. These surveys included sightings of a variety of species from harbour porpoise, at distances of a few hundred metres, to large baleen whales at distances greater than 10km. A total of 910 initial sightings with estimated distances from reticles and measured distances from video, using 7 × 50 (636) or 25 × 'Big Eye' (274) binoculars, were compared. Bearings to sightings were also measured from still images. The CV, RMSE in distances varied between 0.19 and 0.33 for reticle binoculars. Comparisons of measured distances to simultaneous sightings by other observers using naked eye gave a CV RMSE of 0.39 for naked eye estimates. There was a consistent, non-linear pattern in all data sets, of over-estimating close distances to sightings of surfacing cetaceans and under-estimating those further away. However, this pattern was not evident from the distance experiments on SOWER to fixed targets which also had a much lower variance (CV RMSE= 0.13). Bearing data from SCANS-II and CODA showed around 5% of estimates had gross errors greater than 20° that were attributed to mistakes. For the remaining values, RMS errors were in the range 5.7°-7.2° for SCANS-II and CODA and 4.9° for SOWER. Both distance and angle errors will make a substantial contribution to the variance of abundance estimates and simulated data showed that the observed non-linear nature of distance errors may cause considerablebias even when linear regressions might suggest little bias. There still remain technological challenges inoperating complex electronic systems at sea to measure distances and bearings, but investment in these methods should be a cost effective way of reducing bias and improving precision of cetacean abundance estimates. Source

Jewell R.,SMRU Ltd | Jewell R.,University of St. Andrews | Thomas L.,University of St. Andrews | Harris C.M.,University of St. Andrews | And 5 more authors.
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2012

Measuring the effect of anthropogenic change on cetacean populations is hampered by our lack of understanding about population status and a lack of power in the available data to detect trends in abundance. Often long-term data from repeated surveys are lacking, and alternative approaches to trend detection must be considered. We utilised an existing database of linetransect survey records to determine whether temporal trends could be detected when survey effort from around the world was combined. We extracted density estimates for 25 species and fitted generalised additive models (GAMs) to investigate whether taxonomic, spatial or methodological differences among systematic line-transect surveys affect estimates of density and whether we can identify temporal trends in the data once these factors are accounted for. The selected GAM consisted of 2 parts: an intercept term that was a complex interaction of taxonomic, spatial and methodological factors and a smooth temporal term with trends varying by family and ocean basin. We discuss the trends found and assess the suitability of published density estimates for detecting temporal trends using retrospective power analysis. In conclusion, increasing sample size through combining survey effort across a global scale does not necessarily result in sufficient power to detect trends because of the extent of variability across surveys, species and oceans. Instead, results from repeated dedicated surveys designed specifically for the species and geographical region of interest should be used to inform conservation and management. © 2012 Inter-Research. Source

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