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SAPPHIRE: Synthesis of Acoustics, Physiology, Prey, and Habitat in a Rapidly changing Environment

In the face of global climate change, it is critical to understand how rapid environmental change will impact the availability and quality of key prey species, and consequently how these changes will impact predator health and population resilience. The goal of our project, called SAPPHIRE (Synthesis of Acoustics, Physiology, Prey, and Habitat In a Rapidly changing Environment), is to identify and describe the impacts of environmental variation on the physiology of a crucial marine prey species (krill) and a model marine predator (blue whale) to increase the ecological realism of predicting species response to novel conditions. We will collect data on krill availability and quality, and blue whale occurrence, behavior, and physiology in the South Taranaki Bight region of New Zealand in three consecutive years (2023-2026). We will A) assess the mechanistic response of krill to variable environmental conditions through controlled experiments and field collections, B) document the physiological response of blue whales to changes in environment and prey, C) describe relationships between environmental conditions and blue whale foraging and breeding behavior, and D) integrate these components to iteratively develop novel Species Health Models (SHM) that will synthesize mechanistic, physiological, and ecological data to develop predictions of prey and predator population response to rapid environmental change. More information can be found here.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, Award # 2308300.

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