Geographe Bay has been a key location for whale research over the last two decades – however it has evolved a bit over the years!
Cetacean research in this area was first pioneered by Chris Burton of Western Whale Research (WWR), who continues to be the key whale researcher in Geographe Bay. Chris documented blue whale occurrence throughout this region through aerial, boat-based and land-based surveys over many years. Each season he dedicatedly spends many days out on the water collecting behavioural and photo-ID data from his vessel, “Bluey”. These images have allowed WWR to identify individual whales, and record their repeated visits to Geographe Bay over the years. These photos are now being compared with those of blue whales from other research groups around Australia (and, just recently, the entire Southern Hemisphere) to gain further insights into blue whale distribution and habitat use. Since 2005, the Dunsborough Coast and Land Care (D-CALC) group has been instrumental in collecting many years worth of land-based data. These observations are coordinated by Ron Glencross, Chairman of D-CALC.
More recently, Dr Luciana Moller (Flinders University) and Catherine Attard (Macquarie University) have added significant value to the study of Geographe Bay blue whales through their project looking at the genetic component of the population. Acoustic research has also begun in the bay; Drs Robert McCauley and Chandra Salgado Kent (Curtin University) first put noise loggers into Geographe Bay in 2009, and are continuing to collect whale song and vocalisations as the animals pass through the region. In 2010 Curtin University, in collaboration with WWR, set up a theodolite station from a 50m hill near Cape Naturaliste, which complements the land-based surveys run by D-CALC and WWR. This work has so far proved very useful for determining the detection range of vocalising whales within Geographe Bay, as well as obtaining estimates of the relative abundance of whales in the area.
To learn more about previous whale research in Geographe Bay or the current research techniques employed by SouWEST, use the links located in the drop-down menus above.