Behavioral Ecology of Narwhals in a Changing Arctic

The Arctic is currently undergoing rapid and extraordinary large-scale changes related to natural resource development, marine shipping, transportation, infrastructure, and sea ice loss, and as a consequence there will be an imminent and uniform increase in anthropogenic sound. Narwhals (Monodon monoceros) are an important representative species for understanding both increasing noise in the Arctic and loss of sea ice, and the joint effects of these impacts on their behavior and ecology. Before predictions can be made, baseline data quantifying behavioral ecology must be obtained. This project is a combination of field work, data synthesis, and modeling which will build upon existing time series to understand baseline narwhal behavioral ecology while at the same time collecting innovative information on the species’ movements, diving and acoustic ecology in the pack ice. The existing time series includes narwhal satellite tracking data collected between 1993 and 2008, remotely-sensed sea ice data, and fisheries data collected on surveys since 2001. Our longitudinal (over time) and cross-population analyses will use a suite of ecological modeling approaches over a >2 decade period that encompass a period of sea ice decline and increased anthropogenic activities in West Greenland (1993-2008). We will also conduct innovative field studies in order to collect data on the species’ acoustic, movement, and diving ecology in the offshore pack ice of Baffin Bay using a combination of satellite telemetry, acoustic sampling using a sampling rate of and a vertical array (300-900m). These data will be the very first information on narwhal acoustic foraging ecology in Baffin Bay. This is a 4 year long research program (FY 2011 to FY 2014) with three ecological focus areas.  This research is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research.