Conceptual and practical approaches to aid the conservation of cetaceans
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 21:15 authored by Vanessa Pirotta
Cetaceans are a diverse group of marine mammals with a global distribution and at risk of a number natural and anthropogenic threats. There are gaps in our knowledge for some species (e.g., distribution, abundance), largely due to some species being more difficult to study because of their behaviour, rarity, or habitat remoteness. My thesis fills some of these conservation gaps. First, I present a review of known and emerging threats to species, highlighting the importance of distinguishing between threats acting at individual and population levels (Chapter two); threats acting at a population level are considered process thresholds, compromising the survival of a population or species. Secondly, I explore an example of a well-known anthropogenic threat, shipping, via the novel application of a terrestrial road ecology framework in the marine environment (Chapter three). This provides new insights to develop mitigation measures to reduce impacts from increased global shipping.Thirdly, I investigate the role of citizen science as a complementary tool for whale conservation (Chapter four). I demonstrate the benefits of citizen science-based studies as a robust, cost effective and citizen empowering approach to monitoring wildlife over long time periods. Finally, I explore the use of emerging technologies such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, or drones) for marine megafauna conservation via the development of a purpose-built low-cost drone for collecting whale lung microbiota (Chapters five and six). This approach can be used to provide a non-invasive, remote assessment of individual whale health and supporting data for long-term monitoring of population health.