FleetMon in Research: AIS and Marine Mammal Monitoring Programme in Scotland

in Research, Partnering by

Since FleetMon was founded in 2007, we have supported research and development projects worldwide. We offer students, researchers, and academics access to our comprehensive API suite and our extensive AIS data archive. One of our recent projects is with two research fellows from the University of Aberdeen (Scotland). They examine how natural and man-made environmental changes influence marine mammals and seabirds’ behavior and population dynamics.

Dr. Aude Benhemma-Le Gall during her work aboard a research vessel.

Dr. Aude Benhemma-Le Gall and Dr. Oihane Fernandez-Betelu are researchers from France and Spain who came to Scotland to do their PhDs. They are working at the University of Aberdeen’s Lighthouse Field Station in Cromarty (Scotland) and researching marine mammal ecology.
The Lighthouse Field Station is one of the three field stations within the University of Aberdeen (Scotland). The research aims to understand how natural and man-made environmental changes influence marine mammals and seabirds’ behavior and population dynamics.

Dr. Oihane Fernandez-Betelu in the Moray Firth.

What is Your Research Approach?

The Moray Firth is an area of high importance for various protected marine mammal species but also supports multiple anthropogenic activities, including commercial, recreational, and ecotourism vessel traffic, fishing, oil and gas extraction, as well as offshore wind farm developments. To support the conservation and management of these marine mammal populations, we need to understand better the potential effects of these anthropogenic activities on their distribution and behavior.

The degree to which anthropogenic noise from vessel traffic affects marine animal behavior and whether this may lead to longer-term changes in distribution and demography are both major sources of worry. However, scientific uncertainty over the magnitude of any response to vessels, including to other environmental variables like prey, continues to limit efforts to manage wildlife-vessel interactions. The Lighthouse Field Station will conduct studies to investigate marine mammal responses to vessel disturbance in areas with different levels of vessel traffic and prey resources.

The Lighthouse Field Station in Moray Firth.

We will use passive acoustic monitoring techniques, vessel-tracking data, and underwater footage to investigate marine mammal responses to vessel activities in higher habitat quality (where prey is abundant).
This study aims to investigate harbor porpoise and bottlenose dolphin distribution and behavior in relation to prey availability and anthropogenic activities.

Dolphins swimming in Moray Firth with view to the Lighthouse Field Station .

Which Data Have You Received From FleetMon?

We have been a partner of FleetMon and have installed a FleetMon AIS station on the roof of the Lighthouse Field Station, which allows fine-scale coverage of the shipping traffic in the Cromarty and inner Moray Firth. FleetMon has provided us with Automatic Identification System (AIS) vessel-tracking data from Moray Firth, NE Scotland, for the summer of 2022 (May to September).

So we can summarize vessel activities in specific areas, such as offshore wind farm sites or key marine mammal foraging areas. Calculate the distance between our passive acoustic monitoring devices (detecting acoustic signals emitted by cetaceans), recreate vessel tracks for specific vessels of interest, and estimate vessel density and intensity in different areas.

Research & Development at FleetMon

At FleetMon, we have not only created the world’s first vessel database, but we are also very passionate about research and development. We motivate scientists, institutes, and universities to use our powerful and customized API solutions and provide access to our historical vessel position database.

This project again clarifies the importance of AIS data for research and development. We will continue to keep you informed about Aude’s and Oihane’s research.