This presentation is part of the Young Scientist Webinar Series, hosted by the Cape Perpetua Collaborative featuring graduate students and postdocs sharing their ocean research.

The Pacific Coast Feeding Group (PCFG) gray whales spend their summers feeding off the coasts of Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and southern British Columbia. They forage in shallow, coastal water using a variety of techniques, such as headstanding and sideswimming. A research team at Oregon State University has been studying gray whales foraging near Newport, Oregon since 2016 using a variety of tools including drones. The drone footage provides a new perspective that lets researchers identify the specific foraging tactics being used. Combined with photo ID, this data can be used to study the degree of individual behavioral specialization within the study group. By understanding if certain individuals prefer specific tactics and working to assess why certain individuals may be specialists we can inform effective management regarding a population’s resilience to environmental change and disturbance events. Curious to learn more and see some cool drone footage? Come hear about the work that the OSU team has been conducting to understand the behavioral ecology of these whales.​

Clara Bird is a third year Wildlife Science PhD student in the Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna (GEMM) lab at Oregon State University under the supervision of Dr. Leigh Torres. Originally from Michigan, she earned her undergraduate degree from Duke University where she conducted research using drones to conduct Adelie penguin population surveys and to study the body condition of humpback and minke whales in the Antarctic using photogrammetry.


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