Tyler Schulz
A picture of me on Balaena Tyler in dory on Sable
    Biology Department
    Dalhousie University
    Halifax, NS
    B3H 4J1
    Tel: (902) 494-3723
    t m s c h u l z @ d a l . c a

The Structure and Function of Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) coda sequences

I am currently a Ph.D. student in the lab of Dr. Hal Whitehead. I am studying the structure and function of coda communication in the sperm whale, an incredible animal of extremes. They are the largest odontocete (toothed whale), they have the largest brain of any animal, they are cosmopolitan in their distribution, they are highly social, and the take of oceanic prey by the world's population of sperm whales approaches that of all of the human fisheries combined! Sperm whales appear to communicate by using codas. Codas are discrete, stereotyped patterns of broadband clicks, generated by groups of sperm whales while socializing at the water's surface. Previous recording methods have limited analyses to the use of codas by particular groups, rather than specific individuals within the groups. This is because it is difficult to determine which animal made which vocalizations. To correct for this problem, I will be using an acoustic array to localize sperm whale vocalizations. In so doing, I will be able to determine the identity of the vocalizing whale within a recording session, thereby permitting the analysis of sequences of codas. This research will fill a gap in our current knowledge and allow us to determine the function of coda sequences in the social structure of this remarkable species.

The dynamic acoustic array will be created by positioning hydrophones around a sperm whale group. The hydrophones will be carried by Remotely-Piloted Vessels (RPVs) which are pictured below.
Remotely-Piloted Vessels Remotely-Piloted

Check out pictures from recent field work in the Sargasso Sea.

The Evolution of Lactation Strategies in Pinnipeds

I conducted my Masters thesis at Dalhousie University under the supervision of Dr. Don Bowen and in the lab of Dr. Sara Iverson . I looked at adaptive relationships between maternal and offspring life-history traits in pinnipeds. In the suborder Pinnipedia, there are three general lactation strategies; the aquatic nursing strategy involves the offspring accompanying the mother into the ocean while she forages during lactation. In contrast, the foraging-cycle strategy involves the mother alternating periods of suckling her pup on shore with periods of foraging in the ocean. Lastly, in the fasting strategy, the mother remains with her pup on the breeding substrate for the lactation period, abstaining from foraging and relying on her own fat reserves. In my project, I looked at the influence of body size, latitude of the breeding colony, breeding substrate, and evolutionary history on the length of lactation, lactation strategy, and other life-history traits. I used a phylogenetic method to ensure that significant correlations between variables were a result of adaptive relationships and not simply a consequence of the fact that more closely related species are more phenotypically similar.

Go to my page on the Iverson lab homepage

Tonya Wimmer beaked whale photo

Sailing in the Sable Gully

As part of the research of another master's student in the lab, Tonya Wimmer , I sailed on Balaena for three weeks around the Sable Gully and the two nearby canyons looking for nothern bottlenose whales

Seal with TDR on Sable

Field Research on Sable Island

While working on my Masters thesis, I assisted with grey seal field work on Sable Island. During my last field trip, I teamed up with Damian Lidgard to monitor the birthing and weaning of the pups of key study animals. This involved circuiting the island every day on ATVs, checking for weaned pups and weighing weaners. Subsequently, pups were collected for branding. As part of my field work on Sable, I also assisted in deploying TDRs and stomach temperature monitors as part of the Ph.D. project of Debbie Austin

Publications and Presentations

Schulz, T.M. and Bowen, W.D. (In press). The evolution of pinniped lactation strategies: A phylogenetic analysis. Ecological Monographs.

Schulz, T.M. and Bowen, W.D. (2004) Pinniped lactation strategies: Evaluation of data on maternal and offspring life-history traits. Marine Mammal Science 20(1):86-114.

Schulz, T.M. (2001) The evolution of lactation strategies in pinnipeds: A phylogenetic analysis. Masters Thesis. Dalhousie University, Halifax.

Schulz, T.M. (1999). Freeze tolerance and amino acid changes in response to temperature in the quahog (Mercenaria mercenaria) and American oyster (Crassostrea virginica). Honours Thesis. Universtiy of Guelph.

2001 Schulz, T.M. and Bowen, W.D. The evolution of lactation strategies in pinnipeds: A phylogenetic analysis. 14th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. Vancouver, British Columbia.

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This page was designed by Tyler Schulz
Created: May 12, 2003
Last Updated: January 9, 2006