Marine Mammal Spatial Habitat and Risk Program (SHARP)

Mission: Investigate effects of habitat variability and human activities on marine mammal populations to support conservation and management.

Humpback whale and the NOAA Ship McArthur II in the distance.

Our primary focuses are habitat and spatially explicit risk assessment. We take a broad view of habitat, dividing it into physical and biological components. The physical component focuses on oceanographic data, while the biological component includes the entire ecosystem. Specifically, we look at prey, predators, competitors, and commensal species to understand and interpret variations in marine mammal habitat. Habitat research includes quantifying spatial and temporal variability in the physical and biological components of the ecosystem, predicting species distributions, and identifying critical habitat.

Successful marine planning requires a comprehensive framework for managing multiple uses of the environment (e.g., shipping, military training, and fishing). This planning must be based on ecological principles to sustain ecosystem integrity. For example, one outcome of decision making should be healthy populations of top predators and prey species that affect food webs and community structure and function. Spatially explicit risk assessments are a basic requirement of this planning because they link the distribution of these key species to the potential effects and distribution of anthropogenic activities. Our spatially explicit risk assessments include both individual and cumulative impacts, such as vessel strikes, fisheries bycatch, and ocean noise.

Items of Interest:
Habitat: Spatially Explicit Risk Assessment:
Habitat modeling as a research tool for ship-strike risk analysis.