A Picture of Amanda Coakes at the Helm: photo © Tomya Wimmer Amanda Coakes
    Biology Department
    Dalhousie University
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    B3H 4J1
    Tel: (902) 494-3723

I am currently a Master's Student in the Whitehead Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was born and raised here in Halifax and completed my honours degree at Dal as well. My honours topic was conducting photo-identification of fin whales off the coast of Halifax and my supervisor was Dr. Shannon Gowans.

I now study the social structure of sperm whales found off the coast of Northern Chile. In addition to examining the social structure of groups of females and immatures, I have the opportunity to study how mature male sperm whales interact with these groups. This work has allowed me plenty of opportunity to travel and for this project I have conducted fieldwork in both Chile and the Galapagos Islands.

Sailing the High Seas on Balaena: photo © Tonya Wimmer

Field Research in Chile

The data for my thesis were collected during a year long field season off the Coast of Northern Chile. Luke Rendell sailed our supervisor's vessel, Balaena from Halifax to Chile where they stayed for 10 months. I was there for a portion of the season and we collected several pieces of information. We located and followed sperm whales using hydrophones, both day and night. We collected acoustic, photographic and behavioural data as well as skin and feacal samples. The crew consisted of 4-6 people and we lived on board for about 3 weeks at a time.

Me and Tonya on a calm day in the N.Atlantic: photo © Tonya Wimmer

Smooth Sailing in the North Atlantic

As part of the research of another master's student in the lab, Tonya Wimmer, I sailed on Balaena from North Carolina to Halifax. We followed the 1000m contour, looking for bottlenose whales. Although we didn't find any, we found at least one cetacean every day. This trip was plagued with mechanical problems and poor Balaena ended up needing a new transmission. So for most of the trip we were without engine power and relied on the wind. Of course, during this time we had the calmest seas ever, with hardly any wind!

Sperm Whale: photo © Whitehead Lab

Field Research in the Galapagos Islands

My supervisor, Hal Whitehead, has been working in the Galapagos Islands for several years. He has a photographic catalogue of about 1800 individuals from this area. In 2002, I went to the Islands with a field assistant and friend, Jen Covello. We were there to continue the photo-identification work and therefore keep the catalogue up to date. Interestingly enough, although the area has been known for the groups of female sperm whales found in the deep waters around the islands, we didn't find a single female, only mature males.

Amanda catching a loggerhead turtle: photo © Lars Bejder

A hiatus in Australia

Late summer, 2002, I went to Shark Bay, Western Australia, as a field assistant. My friend and labmate, Lars Bejder, conducts work on dolphins in Shark Bay and I went to help for 2 months. There, I helped collect acoustic recordings as well as identification photos of the bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay. In addition to the dolphin work, we were also involved in a sea turtle tagging program. Green turtles and the endangered loggerhead turtles are relatively common in the shallow bay, which provides researchers with this tagging opportunity.

Publications and Presentations

Jaquet, N., Gendron, D. and A. Coakes. (in press) Variability of food resources and its influence on movements, residency and behaviour of sperm whales in the Gulf of California (Mexico). Marine Mammal Science.

Coakes, A., Gowans, S., Simard, P., Giard, J., Vashro, C., and R. Sears. (in prep). Photo-identification of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) off the coast of Halifax in 1997.

Coakes, A., Gowans, S., Simard, P. and J. Giard. 2000. Fin Whales: Where do they go? Poster presentation at the 13th Biennial Conference on Marine Mammals. Vancouver, Canada.

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This page was designed by Amanda Coakes
Created: Apr 11, 2003
Last Updated: Apr 15, 2003