Data Integration & Habitat Modeling

Studying marine mammals poses a variety of challenges to researchers - they exhibit complex behaviors and life histories, react in sometimes unexpected ways to their environment, and often inhabit extremely large home ranges, including areas offshore, which are logistically impossible to sample in a systematic way.

This has led to marine mammal researchers employing a variety of different techniques - acoustics, satellite telemetry, genetics, stable isotopes, and habitat models, to name a few - to try to understand and protect them. While each of these techniques are well established, the development of methods to integrate them with one another in a quantitative and systematic way is relatively new. 

Currently, I am leading a project at NRDC that will integrate acoustic, aerial survey, satellite telemetry, and photo-identification data for the highly endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale population in Alaska. The goal of this work is to use the integrated data set to update the existing habitat models for the beluga whale to better capture their migratory behavior. These maps will then be used to directly inform the management and conservation. 



Kershaw F., Waller T., Micucci P., Draque J., Barros M., Buongermini E., Pearson RG., Mendez M. (2013). Informing conservation units: barriers to dispersal for the yellow anaconda. Diversity and Distributions, 19(9), 1164-1174. [.PDF] [Appendix S1]

Presentations & other media

NRDC Expert Blog: Beluga Blues: The Next Phase of Ocean Noise Research

Kershaw, F., Waller, T., Pearson, R.G. & Mendez, M. (2012). The value of expert-driven niche models and historical records in informing the sustainable harvest of yellow anaconda in northern Argentina. Oral presentation. Ecological Society of America, Portland, Oregon, 9th August 2012.

Kershaw, F., Waller, T., Pearson, R.G., Mendez, M. (2011). Ecological niche characterization of the Yellow Anaconda. Poster presentation, Student Conference on Conservation Science - New York, New York, USA, 12-14 October 2011.