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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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Unmanned surface vehicles (Saildrone) collected data on environmental conditions and prey availability while tracking northern fur seals over long distances and durations. Photos: (Carey Kuhn, NOAA Fisheries (lower right), Saildrone Inc. (upper left))

Kuhn CE, De Robertis A, Sterling J, Mordy CW, Meinig C, Lawrence-Slavas N, Cokelet E, Levine M, Tabisola H, Jenkins R, Peacock D, Vo D


Test of unmanned surface vehicles to conduct remote focal follow studies of a marine predator


Fine-scale relationships between marine predators and their prey are often examined via focal follow studies; observing or recording predator behavior while concurrently conducting vessel-based prey surveys over short spatial or temporal scales. Kuhn and co-authors describe successful tests to conduct remote focal follows of satellite tracked northern fur seals using an unmanned surface vehicle (Saildrone). Saildrones remotely followed fur seals’ foraging paths over ~2 days and 100+ km, collecting data on oceanographic conditions, prey abundance and depth distribution. Being able to conduct remote focal follow studies over longer distances and time periods opens up new possibilities for this type of fine-scale research, including studies of marine species in hard-to-reach or often inaccessible regions of the ocean.


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