ORCA harbour porpoise research exhibited

Author // James Robbins Categories // Survey & Sightings News

Kimberley Neilsen showcasing her research at the Marine Biological Association conference

A new study has been showcased at a major postgraduate conference this week by a Masters student who has been working with ORCA in 2018.

The poster presented includes contributions from Plymouth University and ORCA, and focusses on harbour porpoise data collected by ORCA surveyors.

Kimberley Nielsen, who is currently completing an MRes in Marine Biology at Plymouth University, has been working with ORCA to analyse harbour porpoise data stretching back to 2006 with the aim of better understanding the likelihood of observers accurately recording data about the species.

In particular, the research has focussed on understanding the probability of detection in order to improve the accuracy of statistical models that estimate the population size of the species in UK & European waters, a critical factor in effective management and conservation.

However, given the behaviour and movement of species varies dramatically and as a result the chance of an individual or group being missed during a survey fluctuates a great deal. By examining individual species and accounting for their individual behaviours it is possible to create a “detection function” – a statistical model that uses the distance from the survey vessel and applies a probability to better understand the appropriate margin for error.

The research will be continuing throughout the year and will be published in ORCA’s The State of European Cetaceans report later in 2018.