Passive Acoustic Monitoring of Cook Inlet Belugas and Links to Salmon Availability
Sonia Kumar grew up in Colorado and completed a BA in Environmental Studies with a minor in Psychology from New York University. She has worked in Colorado, Florida, Oregon, and Alaska as a wildlife technician and environmental educator for several years. For nearly two years before starting her graduate degree, she worked as a necropsy technician based in Anchorage, a position which introduced her to the wonderful (and smelly) world of marine mammals.
Sonia’s master’s research utilizes passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) and visual surveys to determine the presence of critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in two rivers that feed into Cook Inlet. She is also monitoring anthropogenic noise and activity that may disturb foraging behavior, communication, and movement of these loquacious whales. The Kenai and Kasilof rivers were selected for this project because of their importance as critical foraging habitat, as well as the opportunity to study which commercially important fish species the belugas might be following, and if anthropogenic activity affects their foraging behavior.
This research is being conducted with the hope that a better understanding of Cook Inlet beluga movement and seasonal behavior patterns can guide future management of these rivers and other critical habitat in Cook Inlet.