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Use of opportunistic sighting data of marine mammals for validation, comparison and enhancement of model predictions

Project data

Project leader: Prof. Prof. h. c. Dr. Ursula Siebert
Scientific work: Dr. Benno Wölfing
Project term: September 2015 until October 2016
Sponsorship: Bundeswehr Technical Center for Ships and Naval Weapons (WTD 71) in Eckernförde
Cooperation: Dr. Kristin Kaschner
Centre for Research into Ecological & Environmental Modelling CREEM, University St. Andrews

Project description


Anthropogenic underwater noise can negatively affect marine mammals. This includes active sonar systems used during naval operations. Therefore, it is important to use existing information on the marine environment and marine mammal occurrences (sightings, model predictions) to better inform the planning phase of sonar operations. 

The aim of the project is to investigate the extent to which opportunistic sightings can be used to confirm existing model predictions or even improve them. This is important because almost all sightings of marine mammals that are registered by Marine Units are opportunistic sightings. They should provide useful information about existing habitat models and improve their ability to predict the distribution of marine mammals.

Existing predictions based on a RES-model (Relative Environmental Suitability Index, Kaschner et al. 2006) will be compared with MaxEnt models of opportunistic sightings (Maxent = Maximum Entropy, Phillips et al. 2006). Controlled flight surveys (Density Surface Models, distance sampling) will serve as a gold standard and will allow us to evaluate model predictions accurately.


Contact person

University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research Werftstr. 6 25761 Büsum


Dr. Benno Woelfing


Tel.:+49 511 856-8179

Fax.:+49 511 856-8181


send e-mail

Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research
Werftstr. 6
25761 Büsum
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