Martin Siderius


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Computation Models, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Whales -- Physiology


During this altREU internship I looked into how the unique environmental factors present in Stellwagen Bank affect humpback whales. The data that was collected for this project was collected in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is one of only 13 National Marine Sanctuaries in the United States. The titular Stellwagen Bank is an underwater plateau which is only about 100 feet in depth as opposed to the surrounding water which can be upwards of 300 feet deep. In the summer months it is home to a population of humpback whales that migrate from the Caribbean. Data has been collected on this population of whales since the mid 1970s and an extensive database has been built up of almost every whale watch trip since then.

I found out about this database through working as a deckhand on whale watch boats and became curious about how the unique factors present in Stellwagen affected the whale population. Through talking with the New England Aquarium I found that one of the main reasons that the whales continue to migrate to this area is because of the upwelling of nutrients that happens when they crash into the side of Stellwagen Bank. This makes Stellwagen one of the most productive feeding grounds in the world.

However, this is not the only unique thing about Stellwagen. Stellwagen is about 25 miles east of a very active port city in Boston. Since Stellwagen blocks the entrance to Boston from the Atlantic Ocean, major shipping lanes must go straight through the Sanctuary. The shipping lane was shifted north in 2007 and this reduced the probability of ship strike by 80 percent.

The major focus of my research was building a model which I did using the Sci-kit learn library in python to determine if I could predict the latitude of the whales given environmental factors. I first preprocessed the data and then I used the Linear Regression feature to find a model. To evaluate the effectiveness of this model I made a graph of the predicted vs the true latitude which resulted in an R^2 of 0.015. This result was not what I was hoping for but does make sense. These 10 factors are only a few of the many factors that affect where a whale travels and therefore its location.

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