The Southwest Whale Ecology Study (SouWEST) is a recently established collaborative science program which integrates the research expertise of Western Whale Research (WWR), the Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) at Curtin University, and the community outreach experience of the Dunsborough Coast and Land Care (D-CALC) group. Together, we aim to ensure the long-term conservation of whales and their critical habitats in Southwestern Australia.
Why the Southwest?
Iconic cetacean species, such as the humpback, blue, southern right, and minke whale are listed internationally as high priority species for conservation due to their vulnerable/endangered status. These whales use Southwestern Australia for migrating, resting and/or calving each year. Not only does the Geographe Bay area provide key habitat for whales of a varity of species, but it is one of the very few locations in the world where the largest of these animals, the blue whale, migrates within hundreds of meters of the coast.
Because of the regions aesthetic beauty, lush forests, and uniquely high marine biodiversity, the Southwest has become increasingly attractive for developers and for what is already a booming tourism industry. While the area is currently relatively pristine, it is experiencing increasing human pressures with the rapidly gorwing population. SouWEST endeavours to secure the long-term future of these whales by improving the scientific foundation for conservation management and species protection in the region.
What information is SouWEST collecting?
To obtain a broad understanding of whale behaviour in critical resting areas and migratory corridors, SouWEST integrates multiple platforms including: land-based monitoring and theodolite tracking, boat-basted behavioural, genetic and photo-identification surveys; and passive acoustic recording of whale song and vocalisations. These observations represent a powerful tool for obtaining a broad understanding of whale migratory behaviour in critical resting areas, as well as the social contexts of these behaviours.
How is the Geographe Bay community involved?
SouWEST will engage with the general public, community groups, and government departments to promote involvement and communicate research outcomes. Dunsborough Coast and Land Care (D-CALC), a volunteer community, is a key member of SouWEST. Established over ten years ago, and initially formed in response to coastal erosion and development on the Dunsborough foreshore, D-CALC has worked with Western Whale Research (WWR) on a research project monitoring humpback and blue whales near Cape Naturaliste over the past five years. Through community engagement such as D-CALC, a broad education and awareness campaign is possible.
I still want to know more!
Use the drop-down menus above to learn more about the objectives of the SouWEST program and more on the SouWEST team members!