The Digital Beaked Whale Atlas (DBWA) Project
Beaked whales (family Ziphiidae) are the least known family of large mammals. We know more about species that have been extinct for thousands or even millions of years, such as the woolly mammoth and the dinosaur T. Rex, than we do about some living beaked whales. For example, all that we known about the spade-toothed beaked whale, Mesoplodon traversii, come from three partial skulls that have been found in various places in the southern hemisphere. At this time, we know so little about it that even if we were to be lucky enough to see a living member of this species at sea, we would not know for sure that it was this species we were observing.
Beaked whales are affected by a number of human activities, ranging from whaling, to bycatch, noise pollution and climate change. However, our ability to monitor and mitigate the effects of human activities is hampered by our lack of knowledge about them. For example, some of the most basic facts about many species, such as where they occur. It is very difficult to build an appropriate conservation strategy for a species when you do not know which parts of the world it occurs in and from which it is absent. It is also very difficult to monitor whether the distribution of a species is changing over time in response to impacts, such as climate change, if we do not know where it occurs now or in the past.
The Digital Beaked Whale Atlas (DBWA) project was established in December 2011 with the aim of providing as much information as possible on the distribution of beaked whale species in a format that can be easily accessed by anyone who might be interested in it without the need for specialist GIS software that requires an expensive licence or that requires specialist training to use.
In order to do this, the DBWA project aims to gather together as much information and convert this information into a format that can be loaded into Google Earth. Google Earth is a powerful mapping software that is very simple to use, and that many people are already familiar with. In addition, it contains a lot of existing data, such as information on water depth and the topography of the land, that allow the beaked whale data to be put into a wider context. The user can also zoom in or out on the data and this allows the beaked whale distributional data to be viewed at the most useful global, regional or local context for a specific user.
As well as providing information on beaked whale distributions, the DBWA project has been set up in such a way to allow anyone with appropriate information on beaked whale distribution to contribute it. This might include the location of beaked whale strandings or sightings, but could also include the results of research such as models of beaked whale distribution, locations of key areas or predictions of the effects of climate change on beaked whales.
If you wish to access information from the Digital Beaked Whale Atlas, please click here.
If you wish to contribute any information on beaked whale distribution to the DBWA project, please click here to find out how you can do so.
If you would like to see a list of contributors to the DBWA project, please click here.
If you would like any of the data layers from the DBWA project as GIS-ready shapefiles, please click here to find out if this is possible.