Tonya Wimmer                 



       Hey there! I just finished my Master's degree here in the Whitehead Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I am a native of Nova Scotia, having been raised  near Peggy's Cove and in Mahone Bay - two extremely beautiful places.

My love of the ocean and it's inhabitants, particularly the whales and dolphins, brought me to Dal's Marine Biology program in 1995.

I completed my Honours BSc and now my Master's of Biology in the Whitehead Lab.

Have fun exploring these pages. If you'd like, drop me a line :)

Master's Thesis (2001 - 2003)

Distribution of cetaceans on the continental shelf break off Nova Scotia and in adjacent waters with a focus on northern bottlenose whales
(Hyperoodon ampullatus).


Using data collected in 2001 and 2002, I described the distribution and quantified the movements of northern bottlenose whales (Hyperoodon ampullatus ) in the waters off northeastern US and southeastern Canada. During surveys in 2001, bottlenose whales were only found in the Gully, Shortland and Haldimand canyons on the eastern Scotian Shelf. Encounter rates in the Gully were higher than in Shortland and Haldimand suggesting that the Gully is their primary habitat. However, animals were consistently sighted in Shortland and Haldimand canyons, which also seem to be important habitat. Several individuals sighted in Shortland and Haldimand canyons in 2001 and 2002 were previously known to inhabit the Gully, indicating movement between all three canyons.
G-tests and analysis of lagged identification rates suggest that there is heterogeneity in movement patterns of individuals. While some individuals move between the three canyons over periods of 1-2 days, others prefer to remain in a given canyon for longer periods. No differences between sex ratios in the different canyons were detected; however, there were differences in their estimated mean residence time within a canyon and emigration rates from a canyon. Bottlenose whales appear to have very localized movements compared with described movement patterns for other large pelagic predators. This lack of movement may be related to their reliance on primarily only one prey genus, Gonatus spp.
Surveys in 2001 provided the opportunity to examine the distribution of cetaceans along the 1000 m contour. Cetaceans were visually and acoustically detected along the entire survey route with a total of 11 species encountered. Bottlenose whales, Atlantic white-sided (Lagenorhynchus acutus) and common ( Delphis delphis) dolphins were typically found in areas of high slope incline while Rissoís dolphins (Grampus griseus) in areas of lower slope incline. Sei (Balaenoptera borealis) and Mesoplodon spp. were found primarily in western waters, while bottlenose and pilot (Globicephalus melas) whales were found in eastern waters. Acoustically, sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) and delphinids were heard along the entire route while bottlenose whales were only on the eastern Scotian Shelf and off the Grand Banks. Seismic exploration and vessel noise was heard on a fairly large portion of the recordings (13 and 15%, respectively). The estimated species diversity in submarine canyons was not significantly different from that on other parts of the continental slope.
Research in 2002 allowed the examination of the distribution of cetaceans in Shortland and Haldimand canyons, areas for which cetacean distribution was previously unknown. In 2002, ten species were encountered in Shortland and Haldimand canyons including bottlenose, blue (Balaenoptera musculus ) and fin (Balaenoptera physalus) whales, Mesoplodon spp. and one Cuvierís beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris). Shortland and Haldimand canyons appear to be important for northern bottlenose whales and likely, for blue whales. These waters should be given protection from anthropogenic development.

Educational Background

2001-2003. Master's of Biology. Whitehead Lab. Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

1995-2000. Honours in Marine Biology Co-op (First-class honours, minor in statistics). Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Scholarships / AwardsBottlenose Whale
2001-2003. NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship (Master's Level)
1999. NSERC Undergraduate Scholarship.
1999. Dalhousie University Scholarship
1998. David Durward Memorial Prize
1998. Ming Fang Li Memorial Prize
1997. Dalhousie University Scholarship
1996. Dalhousie University Scholarship

Other sources of support

2003. Sarah Haney, funding
2003. Helley Hansen Canada, equipment support
2000. Mountain Equipment Co-op; equipment support
2000. Canada Trust Friends of the Environment; financial support

Publications (non-peer reviewed)

Wimmer, T. 2000. Distribution of cetaceans in St. Lawrence Bay, Nova Scotia from 1992-1999. Honours thesis, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Abstract.

Relevant Pratical Experience

Present. Working for Research Casting International to develop a whale museum for Nova Scotia.

Present. Research Assistant for Hal Whitehead and DFO-NFLD. Work includes: completing the photo-id analysis of northern bottlenose whales off Nova Scotia and developing a photo-id catalogue for bottlenose whales off Labrador.

Aug. 2003 & Sept. 2003. Crew and field assistant aboard yacht Balaena on the Scotian Shelf. Work included: photographic, genetic and acoustic sampling of northern bottlenose whales. Project involved lots of sailing and outrunning Hurricane Juan.

May 2001- Sept. 2003. Lead researcher aboard yacht Balaena from Beaufort,North Carolina to Halifax, NS (May 2001-Aug 2001) conducting cetacean surveys on the1,000m contour and studying submarine canyons on the Scotian Shelf (July 2002-August 2002).Work includes: photographic, behavioral and acoustic sampling and lots and lots of sailing.

Dec. 2000 - Feb. 2001. Crew and field assistant aboard the yacht Balaena from Antofagasta, Chile to Key West, Florida, USA. Work included: photographic, genetic, prey and acoustic sampling of sperm whales, lots of sailing, manouvering through the Panama Canal and close encounters with the US Coast Guard  :)

Jan. 2000 - Nov. 2000. Research Assistant studying sperm whale acoustics for PhD. candidate Luke Rendell at Dalhousie University.Work included: analyzing acoustic recordings of sperm whales (Phystermacrocephalus ).

May - Aug. 2000. Lead researcher testing the feasibility of using theodolite tracking to assess the impacts of whale-watching on cetaceansin St.Lawrence Bay, Nova Scotia (due to technical difficulties this projectwas terminated).

May - June 2000. Lobster fisher person with the Frasers in Bay St. Lawrence.

April 2000. Field assistant aboard yacht Balaena studying sperm whales off Chile. Work included: photographic, genetic, prey and acoustic sampling.

July - Aug. 2000. Field Assistant studying social structure of  long-finned  pilot whales in St. Lawrence Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia with
A. Ottensmeyer.Work was conducted aboard a commercial whale-watch and included: photographic,behavioral and acoustic sampling.

July - Aug. 2000. Naturalist aboard Captain Cox's Whale Watch in Bay St. Lawrence, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

  Other Interests / Activities

- Oil and Gas Exploration in Nova Scotia and impacts on cetaceans, turtles and other marine animals  
- Member and organizer of the Marine Animal Response Society (MARS) 


Go here for Biology 4060 Class Material

Bottlenose Whale Calf  Mailing Address:
   Department of Biology
   Dalhousie University
   Halifax, Nova Scotia
   B3H 4J1   Canada

      last updated by me in November 2003