Editors’ Select Seminar Series: Drones and marine mammals in Svalbard, Norway

We are pleased to announce the May 2021 edition of the the SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series. This series highlights the latest and most exciting marine mammal science published in the Marine Mammal Science Journal. The SMM created this series to give scientists and citizens around the world a chance to engage with marine mammal scientists, learn and ask questions. All are welcome.

Guest, Albert Palomino-González of Universidad Austral de Chile presents: “Drones and marine mammals in Svalbard, Norway, 9 AM Pacific Time (4 PM UTC)

May 20, 2021 4 PM UTC (9 AM PDT)

About this talk:
The use of drones has risen exponentially in recent years, following an increasingly widespread use among hobbyists and researchers, although their effects on wildlife behaviour are not always well known. Our project studied the impact of drones on different species of arctic marine mammals, including walruses, polar bears, belugas and harbour seals in Svalbard, in order to provide management advice to the local authorities. Over the course of several field expeditions, the team used a range of drone models, and tested different approach strategies and flight altitudes. We also measured the sound emitted by the drones to help us evaluate the impact of different type of flights on wildlife. Overall, harbour seals reacted to the drones from a distance of 80 m, while walruses reacted when flying closer than 50 m. Flying manually, especially overflying or descending over the animals, led to noisier flights and caused more disturbance than when flying in automatic mode. Polar bears noticed the drones at distances over 300 m, especially with calm weather conditions, and belugas reacted strongly when approaching the pods from the front, or at altitudes below 15 m. We recommend following trajectories that can be predicted by the animals, such as straight-line or circular paths, and using flight planner applications in order to minimise abrupt noises. Finally, events that took place and conditions prior to a flight, such as the encounter of a predator, may directly influence how wildlife reacts to drones, so we advise drone pilots to follow a precautionary principle.
Open access all Marine Mammal Science papers is available to current SMM members. Open access to this article will be made temporarily available to the public between 29-May 7 2021.

About the presenter:
Albert Palomino is currently a PhD student at Universidad Austral de Chile. He graduated at UiT The Arctic University of Norway from a master’s programme in marine ecology, where he developed the project Drones and Marine Mammals in Svalbard together with researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute.

His main research interests are the effects of environmental change on marine predator population dynamics and the impact potential of anthropogenic activities on wildlife behaviour.

Missed a presentation or want to share this series with a friend? All previous Editors’ Select  presentations are recorded and archived on our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUc78IynQlubS2DVS1VZoplf_t42-yZOO

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