Goldbogen Lab receives NSF grants to study cetacean maneuverability and foraging ecology

 

We are excited to announce that the Goldbogen Lab received two recent grants for basic research on cetacean biomechanics, maneuverability, and foraging ecology. The lab received two awards in 2017 from NSF’s Division Of Integrative Organismal Systems (Physiological Systems and Biomechanics) and the Office of Polar Programs (Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems).

 

The IOS award focuses on the use of new multi-sensor tag technology (see A-M above) to understand the scaling of unsteady locomotor performance in whales that range in body mass by over an order of magnitude. It is has long been held that larger animals should exhibit decreased maneuverability yet our preliminary data show extraordinary maneuverability in the largest animals of all-time. How do the largest animals maneuver and how does this impact their ability to forage? How do they use their flippers and flukes to effect different types of maneuvers? This project will include the training of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in interdisciplinary research that integrates engineering and physics with biology. Moreover, the results from this research may provide novel insights into the biomimetic design of autonomous underwater vehicles with enhanced maneuvering performance at the scale of small submarines.

The OPP award will send two members of the Goldbogen Lab to the Palmer Peninsula on the Antarctic Continent. The team will use a combination of custom-built drones, multi-frequency prey mapping, and whale-borne tags to provide an integrated approach towards understanding the foraging ecology of Antarctic minke whales (see above; photo by Goldbogen). This species is one of the most abundant, yet most poorly understood baleen whale species. Our preliminary data indicate that this species has a high affinity with sea ice, and their size (small compared to other baleen whales, yet larger compared to other krill predators like seals and penguins) and feeding mode (bulk filtration using baleen) may offer them a unique advantage when exploiting resources from this habitat. This award will help develop the career of 4th and 5th year Ph.D. student by providing multi-disciplinary training and research opportunities in marine science, polar ecosystems, and integrative organismal biology.