2018 Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals - Post 1

September 11, 2018

This Arctic survey of marine mammals in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas has been conducted every year off the northern and western coasts of Alaska since 1979. A long-term dataset like this is extraordinary because it is both unusual and important. Exact survey dates and boundaries have varied over time, but the study goals, general survey area, and survey methods have stayed remarkably similar. ASAMM is co-managed and conducted by the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center, and funded and co-managed by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

In recent years, July through September has been considered ice-free months in the Beaufort and Chukchi sea ASAMM study areas.

In recent years, July through September has been considered ice-free months in the Beaufort and Chukchi sea ASAMM study areas.

ASAMM goals are to examine the distribution, relative numbers of animals using certain areas, and behavior of bowhead, gray, humpback, fin, minke, and killer whales, belugas, harbor porpoises, walruses, ice seals, and polar bears. ASAMM is focused in areas of potential interest to petroleum exploration, development, and production, and surrounding areas used by these species, in the Alaskan Arctic. Results from ASAMM provide an objective, broad-scale understanding of marine mammal ecology in the Alaskan Arctic that helps inform management decisions.

In 2018, ASAMM has one team based in Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska, from 1 July – 31 October, and one team based in Deadhorse, Alaska, from 18 July – 11 October. Our survey season started off with a whole lot of fog and crummy weather conditions for aerial surveys, and we were not able to take many blog-worthy photos, but we will be posting some of our better photos during September and October.

*All photos taken under research permit with funding from the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management. 

Additional Resources

Meet the Bloggers

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Amelia Brower 

Amelia Brower is a NOAA Fisheries affiliate with the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center through the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington (UW).

Amelia began working with marine mammals in 2006. She has participated in marine mammal necropsies, seal, sea lion, and fur sea lion rehabilitation and diet and life history studies, bone preservation, monitoring for manatees and other marine life from dredges, oceanographic sampling, small boat surveys for toothed whales off Hawaii, and seal, sea lion, and North Atlantic right whale aerial surveys.

Amelia Brower joined the Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals (ASAMM) project in 2009 as a seasonal observer and as a year-round core team member in 2010. Amelia is a team leader during the field season and spends the rest of the year error-checking and analyzing data and photos and assisting with and producing reports, presentations, and scientific publications. Amelia’s work within the ASAMM data has focused on gray whale feeding in the northeastern Chukchi Sea and humpback, fin, and minke whale distribution in the Chukchi Sea. She also serves as the ASAMM polar bear data liaison.


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Amy Willoughby

Amy Willoughby is a marine mammal biologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

Amy began her career on the sandy beaches of Florida’s Atlantic coast where she conducted sea turtle nesting surveys. She took to the skies in 2009 as an aerial survey observer for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s North Atlantic right whale Early Warning System project.

Since then she has logged hundreds of flight hours searching for protected marine species in the Gulf of Mexico and coastal waters from New Jersey to South Carolina.

Amy has been involved in numerous field projects, conducting research on a range of species including salmon, marbled murrelets, bottlenose dolphins, ice-associated seals, and polar bears.

In 2014, Amy headed to the Alaskan Arctic for a seasonal position with the Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals (ASAMM) project as a marine mammal observer and was fortunate to have the project invite her on as a full-time employee. Since then, she has worked for ASAMM year-round on fieldwork logistics, data management and analysis, and reports, and she serves as team leader and walrus data liaison during field operations.



Nicole Brandt Turner

Nicole Brandt Turner is a biologist with Ocean Associates, Inc., joining the Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals (ASAMM) project as a marine mammal observer for her first season. Outside of the field season Nicole works for the National Park Service as a marine wildlife specialist in a national office based in Colorado where she assists parks through technical assistance requests and by providing marine policy guidance. She is completing her Master’s degree at Colorado State University in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. 

Nicole began her career in Mexico in 2005, studying gray whales in their calving lagoons. Her first aerial observing position was in 2010 with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, documenting endangered North Atlantic right whales in the calving grounds off the southeastern U.S. She has continued to observe marine mammals and document their behavior from every platform imaginable - large and small boats, small airplanes and helicopters, rocky cliffs and sandy beaches, and behind the computer screen with the assistance of remote cameras - and logged hundreds of hours from the Atlantic to the Pacific.



Corey Accardo

Corey Accardo is an independent field researcher. Corey loved the ocean and all of its critters starting from a young age and has pursued job opportunities which allow her to work on, over, and near the salty seas.  She began working with marine mammals and photo identification during college and has been lucky to continue in this, and other fields, since that time.  This path has also allowed her to work with a variety of species while participating in field projects from the Arctic Ocean to the Antarctic Peninsula and with many others taking place on both coasts of the contiguous United States.

Corey’s first job as an aerial observer focused on surveys for critically endangered North Atlantic right whales in the southeastern United States’ offshore waters.  Since then she has flown on many different platforms working with a variety of organizations.  She joined the Aerial Surveys for Arctic Marine Mammals (ASAMM) team in 2011 as an observer and has enjoyed seasonally participating in this project every year since.