Global collaboration

Circumpolar collaboration for global question: the impact of climate change

The Southern Ocean Research Partnership has a new theme on right whales:

“The right sentinel for climate change: linking foraging ground variability to population recovery in the southern right whale”

Emma Carroll and Els Vermeulen are co-leads for the theme, which provides an over-arching research programme linking southern right whale population dynamics and health with foraging ecology. It aims to leverage the existing long-term datasets from the primary wintering grounds with new knowledge on foraging areas and linkages between migratory habitats, with the ultimate goal to investigate the impact of past and future climate variation on right whale recovery.


Right whales: where and what do they eat?

Southern right whales are known to feed on copepods and krill, which are wee marine crustaceans. How has their behaviour changed since the whaling era? We are leading a circumpolar collaboration, spanning all remaining major wintering areas, in order to understand where the whales are feeding and how this has changed compared with historical whaling data. To do this, we measure micro-chemicals called stable isotopes in the skin of southern right whales which is a reflection of where and what they feed on. The isoscape modelling will be done by Brittany Graham at NIWA and this will be used to do foraging habitat modelling by Leigh Torres from Oregon State University. Emma Carroll and Luciano Valenzuela are also driving the collaboration and bring stable isotope and right whale ecology expertise.