The Behavioural Response of Australian Humpback Whales to Seismic Surveys (BRAHSS) is a large title and an even bigger project.
Over ninety staff and volunteers worked with this important research project. I was responsible for their daily health and well-being, as well as assisting with the research at times.
The project involved two land-based field sites, each with three observation teams, five small research vessels and a commercial seismic vessel along a 15 km stretch of the Sunshine Coast.
This year was the final field season of the project; the previous year’s increasingly larger seismic air guns were trialled and led to a full commercial array being used in the final year. The experiment is designed to record any behaviour changes in the most sensitive of humpback groups, cows and their calves, as they make their way down the Australian coast on their southern migration. Behavioural responses were recorded from each of the small research vessels as well as from the two land-based field sites. The land-based sites recorded all whales in the area as well as recording the fine-scale movement of selected pods.
The study’s principal scientists and research assistants will spend the next 12 months analysing the data that has been collected throughout the five years of the project and preparing the final reports and scientific publications.
It has been a privilege to be involved in such an important cetacean research project. It was challenging, exhausting but so worthwhile.
Sue Mason, Research Officer
(Photo taken by DRI’s David Donnelly from the University of Queensland’s research vessel Carmena, under both Queensland and federal research permits. It shows a humpback whale surfacing in front of a research boat with Sue Mason aboard).