New people in Hjørnedal

Susanna B. Blackwell

Susanna B. Blackwell is a bio-acoustician with Greeneridge Sciences in California.  For the last 17 years she has been aiming to understand how man-made underwater sounds affect marine mammals of the Arctic, such as bowhead whales, ringed seals, beluga whales, and narwhals.  Does the sound of a vessel make them change their course?  After they hear a series of airgun pulses, used in prospecting for oil and gas under the seafloor, do they change how often they call, how deep they dive, or does it drive them away from a food resource? 

Answers to such questions are needed for proper management of these species whose environment is rapidly changing. From an acoustics perspective, nothing is known about the narwhals of East Greenland, let alone how man-made noises may affect them. Narwhals rely on sound to survive – echolocation enables them to find food and perceive (“see”) the dark environment they live in for much of the year, and their vocalizations serve to communicate with other narwhals. The aim of the project is to describe sound production in undisturbed narwhals, and then to report how their behavior changes in response to man-made sounds such as airgun pulses.

Terrie M. Williams

Terrie M. Williams is a comparative eco-physiologist with 35 years of research experience concerning the exercise physiology of terrestrial and aquatic mammals such as African lions, sea otters, narwhals, polar bears, and Weddell seals. As a Professor at the University of California- Santa Cruz, she directs the Integrative and Comparative Energetics (ICE) Lab. Her research expeditions have taken her from the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctic as well to the savannahs of Africa and the mountainous California coast. She developed many of the instruments used in her studies including submersible heart rate microprocessors for monitoring the diving responses of dolphins and whales as they feed at sea, and the S.M.A.R.T (Species Movement, Acceleration, and Research Tracking) collar that integrates the energetics and behavior of terrestrial carnivores hunting across diverse landscapes.

Terrie and her students strive to understand the ecological significance of large (weighing more than 25 kilograms) mammals and the physiological adaptations necessary for species survival in a world that is constantly changing due to human impacts. On this project, she is deploying her heart rate monitors on narwhals and is also measuring their thermal biology using infrared technology. Her primary goal is to understand how the presence of humans may disrupt the normal daily routine of these remarkable deep diving whales.