Estimating relative trends in cetacean abundance and distribution from data collected for an opportunistic sighting network (BCCSN)

British Columbia's coastline is home to eighteen species of cetaceans and three species of sea turtles. Nine of these are at risk of extinction. To conserve these species, it is crucial to learn more about their distribution/abundance and habitat use. The British Columbia Cetacean Sightings Network (BCCSN) was established to gather sightings of these species from a network of mariners and coastal citizens. Since then, the BCCSN has received thousands of sightings from hundreds of observers up and down the coast. The objective of this internship is to estimate temporal trends in relative abundance and distribution of cetaceans commonly found in the waters off north‐eastern Vancouver Island, using the sightings collected by one of the BCCSN observers-Straitwatch. The specific objectives for this research are to: (1) establish baseline estimates of trends in cetacean abundance to guide future management decisions; (2) create spatial distribution models (GAMs) of cetacean species within the study area in order to identify areas associated with specific behaviour or other species‐specific factors determining marine mammal distribution; (3) determine whether the assumption that the probability of detecting a species of cetacean is density‐dependant or that a functional response exists; (4) provide a means by which to evaluate the effectiveness of future management actions; and (5) improve the usefulness of data already collected within the BCCSN, as well as, identifying means by which to collect effort information from the large network of volunteer observers.

Faculty Supervisor:

Dr. Randall Peterman


Nicole Koshure


CETUS Research and Conservation Society


Resources and environmental management


Fisheries and wildlife


Simon Fraser University



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