Marine Mammal Ecology Lab

Sabbatical in Germany (2015-2016)

The overall aim for my professional leave was to collaborate on two related research projects: long-term acoustic monitoring of harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) in the German Baltic Sea (German Oceanographic Museum) and Static Acoustic Monitoring of the Baltic Sea Harbour Porpoise (SAMBAH).  The Baltic Sea subpopulation of harbor porpoise is small and has been drastically reduced during the last decades.  As a result many countries have employed listening techniques to monitor harbor porpoise populations and have joined efforts to monitor this species throughout its range in the Baltic Sea.

My wife Lisa, a high-school teacher at Ferndale High School in Washington State, USA, and our son Ethan joined me in Kiel, where we were based for seven months.

You can read my wife's blogs in the right side column.

Several benefits have arisen or are expected to arise from the activities I conducted during my professional leave:

  • Publications and presentations.  As a result of the research in which I was engaged in the Baltic Sea, three publications are currently in preparation, three presentations have been given or scheduled and one report has been written.  The emphases of the manuscripts and presentations are the conservation status of the Baltic Sea harbor porpoise and the efficacy of acoustic methods to monitor marine mammals at large spatial scales.
  • Research development.  I gained experience in the use of acoustic monitoring techniques to study marine mammal populations, which I plan to use to conduct related research in the Salish Sea.  As such, my professional leave opened new avenues of research.
  • Student projects.  Thanks to my experience in the Baltic Sea, I was able to generate ideas for a range of accessible research projects for graduate and undergraduate students at Western.  Studying harbor porpoises in the Salish Sea via acoustic techniques is a viable line of research that might be amenable to students.
  • Interdisciplinary and international collaboration.  I established collaborations for future biological research of harbor porpoises in the Baltic Sea with SAMBAH scientists and for science education work with the Kieler Forschungswerkstatt.  This new lines of international research should improve my ability to attract external funding for research projects, while at the same time open new doors for Western students wishing to conduct research, both graduate and undergraduate.