The Australian Orca Database (AOD)
The Australian Orca Database (AOD) was founded in 2009. Formally known as the 'Southern Ocean Orca Database' (established in 1994), the AOD strives to build a better understanding of Australia's top level predator, the orca (Orcinus orca), also known as the killer whale. Due to the transient nature of Australia's killer whale population, the Australian Orca Database relies on sightings information and images donated by charter operators, the fishing community and the general public. This information is used by researchers to investigate the social structure of orca pods, movement and migration trends, identify killer whale ‘hot spots, derive a population estimate for killer whales in Australian Territorial waters, raise the profile of the species in Australia, and ultimately assist with their conservation and management.
Killer whale ID catalogue (Robert Pitman)
Killer whale (Orcinus orca) individuals can be readily distinguished from natural markings; specifically, variability in the shape of the dorsal fin, the colour of the adjacent saddle patch, and naturally acquired nicks in the dorsal fin. Killer whale communities are often comprised of groups of recognisably different types - types that, for example, also look different, have different prey preferences (e.g. are fish-eaters or mammal-eaters), feeding habits and vocalise in different ways. It is not yet known whether these types are different species, sub-species or simply variants within a species. Photographs submitted to this killer whale catalogue will be used by researchers such as Robert Pitman and John Durban, Southwest Fisheries Science Center of NOAA's Fisheries Service, to create long-term photographic records of the same individuals that will be used to understand the life histories, population dynamics, long-term changes in social structure, movement patterns, abundance and, ultimately, how many killer whale species there are.
- Primary contact: Robert Pitman
- Alternate contact: John Durban
- Robert Pitman biography
- John Durban biography
The Antarctic Humpback Whale Catalogue
The Antarctic Humpback Whale Catalogue is an international project investigating movements of humpback whales between the Southern Ocean and lower latitude waters. The Catalogue presently contains over 1,600 individual whales, identified by photographs of the ventral side of the fluke (tail) and/or of dorsal fin and flank. It is the result of collaboration between scientists, naturalists and tourists who have contributed photographs of humpbacks from regions including east and west coasts of South America, Africa and Australia, as well as New Zealand, various archipelagos within Oceania, and all sectors of the Southern Ocean. The Catalogue is supported by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW); since 1985 it has been curated by College of the Atlantic's marine mammal research group, Allied Whale.
The Southern Hemisphere Blue Whale Catalogue
Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), the largest creature on the planet, have distinctive dorsal fin shapes and mottling on their flanks that allow individuals to be identified. The Southern Hemisphere Blue Whale Catalogue (SHBWC) is an international collaborative effort to improve knowledge of southern hemisphere blue whales by comparing the images of blue whales in identification catalogues held by different researchers and institutions worldwide. Specially designed software facilitates the sharing process and allows inter-regional comparisons to be made. The results of comparisons among different regions in Southern Hemisphere will improve our understanding of southern hemisphere blue whale population boundaries, migratory routes and abundance estimates, information critical for the management and conservation of this iconic species.
Oceania humpback whale catalogue
Estimating the abundance of long-lived, migratory animals is challenging but essential for managing populations. An international team of researchers use fluke identification photographs from endangered humpback whales (Megaptera novaeanglia) to estimate the abundance of individuals on their breeding grounds in Oceania, South Pacific and track their migration to their Antarctic feeding grounds. Results to date suggest that the recovery seen in most other populations of humpback whales throughout the world is not apparent in this endangered population. Images submitted to this humpback whale catalogue will form an essential part of continued studies on these whales and contributed to their conservation and management.