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Norton Sound beluga whale aerial survey


Norton Sound
Study transects for the beluga whale aerial survey in Norton Sound.  Graphic: NOAA Fisheries

Norton Sound
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Norton Sound beluga whale survey to be conducted for first time in nearly 20 years

June 15, 2017 -- NOAA Fisheries' Alaska Fisheries Science Center (Marine Mammal Laboratory), in collaboration with the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee and the North Slope Borough, will be conducting aerial surveys for the Eastern Bering Sea stock of belugas in Norton Sound and near the Yukon River Delta, Alaska.

What do we hope to learn?

Through the surveys, we hope to derive an updated population estimate for this stock of belugas. Surveys of this area last took place in 2000. Managers and subsistence users need to know whether the population size has stayed the same, increased, or decreased. Knowing the trend in population size will help managers maintain a healthy beluga whale population.

Our scientists will be conducting this important survey from June 16 to 29, out of Nome, Alaska, with pilots and aircraft from Clearwater Air.

Stay tuned for updates on how the survey goes and what we see! .

Meet the Bloggers

Ameilia Brower
Ameilia Brower

Amelia Brower is a NOAA Fisheries affiliate with the NOAA Fisheries' Alaska Fisheries Science Center through the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington (UW). Amelia began working with marine mammals in 2006. She has participated in marine mammal necropsies, seal, sea lion, and fur sea lion rehabilitation and diet and life history studies, bone preservation, monitoring for manatees and other marine life from dredges, oceanographic sampling, small boat surveys for toothed whales off Hawaii, and seal, sea lion, and North Atlantic right whale aerial surveys. Amelia Brower joined the Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals (ASAMM) project in 2009 as a seasonal observer and as a year-round core team member in 2010. Amelia is a team leader during the field season and spends the rest of the year error-checking and analyzing data and photos and assisting with and producing reports, presentations, and scientific publications. Amelia’s work within the ASAMM data has focused on gray whale feeding in the northeastern Chukchi Sea and humpback, fin, and minke whale distribution in the Chukchi Sea. She also serves as the ASAMM polar bear data liaison.


Christy Sims
Christy Sims

Christy Sims is a NOAA Fisheries affiliate through the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington (UW). Christy started as a photo-identification volunteer at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in 1998, and has been working with the Cook Inlet beluga whale project since completing her Masters of Marine Affairs at the UW in 2001. Christy has worked as observer and videographer on the Cook Inlet beluga aerial surveys since 2003 as well as working on photo-id projects on humpback and bowhead whales. She has also participated in Aerial Survey of Alaska Marine Mammals (ASAMM) as a team leader since 2012. When she isn't flying around Alaska in a small plane, Christy is in Seattle analyzing data or designing and managing databases.

Amy Willoughby
Amy Willoughby

Amy Willoughby is a marine mammal biologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Amy began her career on the sandy beaches of Florida’s Atlantic coast where she conducted sea turtle nesting surveys. She took to the skies in 2009 as an aerial survey observer for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s North Atlantic right whale Early Warning System project. Since then she has logged hundreds of flight hours searching for protected marine species in the Gulf of Mexico and coastal waters from New Jersey to South Carolina. Amy has been involved in numerous field projects, conducting research on a range of species including salmon, marbled murrelets, bottlenose dolphins, ice-associated seals, and polar bears. In 2014, Amy headed to the Alaska Arctic for a seasonal position with the Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals (ASAMM) project as a marine mammal observer and was fortunate to have the project invite her on as a full-time employee. Since then, she has worked for ASAMM year-round on fieldwork logistics, data management and analysis, and reports, and she serves as team leader and walrus data liaison during field operations.

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