Where the dolphins are and where they could be...
A lot of our survey work is concerned with finding and observing our study species, and looking at where the they are, what habitats they prefer and what the threats are to those areas important to the existence of dolphins and porpoises.
By now we have a pretty good grasp of where Chilean dolphins, Peale's dolphins and Burmeister's porpoises hang out and how they share the coastal environment (yes, we're resubmitting that habitat selection paper for publication, .... thanks for asking... - will announce on the blog when it's out). However, compared to the overall range of these species in southern Chile with its vast and remote fjords our study areas at Chiloé are mere specks along a very long coastline.
So two MSc students at St Andrews, supervised by Sonja and her SMRU colleague Sophie Smout, asked the questions for their dissertation projects: Where else could the dolphins be? Julia and Annie used our extensive sighting data to create distribution models for Chilean dolphins and Peale's dolphins for Chiloé, and then used the best spatial model to predict where else dolphin groups were likely to be seen in the Chiloensis Ecoregion. We then sourced various existing data sets from the Chiloensis Ecoregion to see if our predicted areas had had previous survey effort and dolphin sightings recorded. A big thank you here goes to Pancho Viddi, WWF Chile, who very kindly shared some of his valuable data with us for checking. The good news is that our approach worked quite well, and has highlighted some areas that we would like to take closer looks at and maybe deploy a few of those acoustic dataloggers that are currently deployed at Chiloé... Annie and Julia presented their results as posters at the St Andrews student conference, and will also have a poster at the SMM Biennial Conference in San Francisco in December.