We are delighted to announce the release of a new report exploring how the interim PCoD framework could be adapted to assess the effects of disturbance on the critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale population!

For the past year we’ve been working alongside NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – to develop a new version of the PCoD tool to help explore the effects of underwater noise on beluga whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska. The project is now complete and the new tool has been delivered to NOAA. You can read the report here.

This project focused on the endangered Cook Inlet (CI) beluga whales, which recently was deemed a “Species in the Spotlight” by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). NMFS indicated CI belugas were one of eight species among the most at risk of extinction in the near future. Noise is a stressor of high concern to CI beluga (NMFS 2015) and recovery plans include the need for assessment tools addressing whether noise is likely to be limiting recovery of the CI beluga population.

For the Cook Inlet beluga population there are a lack of appropriate datasets linking exposure to disturbance to behavioral change, and then behavioral change to health. Therefore, as part of this project we ran an expert elicitation workshop to ask experts how specific noise-related stressors affect vital rates. This involved asking experts what they considered to be plausible ranges for certain input data such as “how many days of disturbance can a pregnant female tolerate before there will be a reduction in her energy reserves when she gives birth?“. The interim PCoD framework software was then modified to incorporate these workshop outpits in order to be applicable to the Cook Inlet beluga population. The report also presents some illustrative scenarios using the Cook Inlet modified PCoD framework with hypothetical construction scenarios to show how this framework can be applied in different situations.

Check out some of our other PCoD projects:

We have recently started working on a 3 year project called PCoD+ funded by the Office of Naval Research to build upon all the work done to date on exploring the Population Consequences of Disturbance. You can check out a summary of the PCoD+ project here. We’re in the process of setting up a PCoD+ webpage where you can keep up to date with the project, its outputs and next steps so stay tuned!