A researcher at The University of Western Australia has received a UWA Research Development Award to study the importance of ocean circulation to the Humpback whales of Camden Sound in the Kimberley.
Dr Nicole Jones and colleagues from the School of Environmental Systems Engineering and the School of Earth and Environment aim to understand the physics of the area, an important whale nursery and the northernmost point in the whales' annual winter migration from Antarctica.
Dr Jones visited Camden Sound for the first time last June as part of a group of researchers from UWA. The WA Marine Science Institute sponsored the week-long trip.
This preliminary data is being used to plan future experiments that will quantify the influence of the many islands, reefs and headlands in the region on ocean circulation and mixing. This will contribute to our understanding of the characteristics that make the Sound such an important area for Humpback whales.
However, Dr Jones said further funds were needed to undertake a more detailed study of this remote location.
"The Kimberley coastline is relatively untouched in terms of industry and relatively unstudied in terms of oceanography," she said.
Dr Jones added it was important to understand the physical processes that influence Camden Sound so the right measure could be put in place to protect the whales' habitat. For example, understanding the ocean circulation would allow prediction of possible pollutant transport in the area.