Whale Trust's Data Analysis
While the raw data is collected at sea, most of the scientific insight comes during analysis of the data in a laboratory or office.
The laboratory or office is where we label, organize and archive our thousands of photographs of individual whales. Comparing these photographs both within and between seasons allows us to know not only the identity, but also the life history of the whales that were we encountered and studied during the season.
Humpback whale songs are analyzed using bioacoustic software programs that create spectographs (visual representations of the sounds), which allows the composition and patterns of individual songs to be described.
Each year, Whale Trust scientists take thousands of photographs of humpback whales that are organized into a photo-catalogue and entered into a computer database. Identifying individuals is a crucial component of our research. From this data, we can learn vital information about populations and individuals, ranging from age, lifespan, reproductive histories, migration patterns, and population estimates to association patterns between individuals.
The Whale Trust catalogue includes photos of individual humpback whales that date back to the 1970s when Jim Darling was working on his Ph.D. We have information on some individual whales dating back to 1979. For example, “Frank”, the first singer ever identified in 1979, was just seen again in 2006. Since he was at least 4-5 years of age (i.e., sexually mature) when he was first sighted, we know that “Frank” is at least 30 years of age!
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