Current Research Project: HARBOR PORPOISE STUDY in SAN FRANCISCO BAY
San Francisco State University
Golden Gate Cetacean Research
San Francisco Bay Chapter of the American Cetacean Society
The Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is a small cetacean that occurs along the
Central and Northern California Coast. Due to a high number of takes in offshore
fisheries, population state and distribution began to be monitored in the last few decades.
Aerial transects, ship-based surveys, and post-mortem data have determined four distinct
stocks of phocoena in the Eastern Boundary Pacific: central California, northern
California, Oregon-Washington outer coast, and Washington inland waters. In the San
Francisco Bay Delta, phocoena were not sighted between the end of World War II and
2008. Since sightings began again in 2008, Golden Gate Cetacean Research (GGCR) has
initiated research efforts to understand why these animals are now frequenting a new
specific area of Northern California, with an assessment of abundance, distribution,
behavior, and habitat use. This study seeks to identify specific environmental parameters
of the Golden Gate that affect phocoena in respect to temporal and spatial aspects.
The Harbor Porpoise Project, in conjunction with San Francisco State Univeristy (SFSU)
Masters Candidates, is initiating a citizen science program to help increase research
efforts. The program is being run through the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the
American Cetacean Society. This study is a novel opportunity to observe these animals
and their behavior at close range; to practice marine mammal field observations in the
ecologically distinct area of SF Bay; and to participate in conservation efforts.
Phocoena exist in a dynamic environment, as does all marine life. At the Golden Gate,
the marine environment changes rapidly – over the course of a day there are four tide
changes that significantly affect Bay conditions. This study will seek to get a better idea
of the physical- biological interactions that occur across tide changes at the mouth of San
Francisco Bay. The goal is to make biological predictions of marine mammal habitat use
based on physical relationships in the environment.
Volunteers will be asked to help perform point count surveys from two land-based
observation stations on either side of the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as conduct
transects across the Golden Gate Bridge to collect porpoise aggregation and activity
data. Shifts will be assigned in two hour increments, and volunteers will be asked to
commit on a monthly basis for a minimum of two shifts per week. The study will call
on volunteers from Fall 2013 through Spring of 2015, with potential for continuation
based on research initiatives and project funding.
These positions are volunteer; participants will be responsible for their own housing
and transportation to field sites (potential for carpooling will be established after the
first meeting with new volunteers). The weather at the Golden Gate is unpredictable
and can be harsh with highly variant wind, precipitation, temperatures. Volunteers
should be prepared to withstand these conditions; they should be able to stand and
walk for a minimum of two hours; and they should be able to clearly see a distance of
at least 100 meters. Volunteers need to be at least 18 years of age; the ideal
participants will be those who have prior experience in marine field observations, a
firm understanding of the scientific method, and a strong interest in marine ecology.
Please submit a letter of interest and resume. The letter of interest should be one page,
single spaced, and include a brief biography. Please include a description of academic
history, skills, experiences, and objectives that explain your interest and participation
in this project. On the resume, please include an education section with science
courses, GPA, and an experience section including volunteer positions, internships,
and professional positions that relate to environmental science and/or conservation
Please submit application materials to Lynette R. Koftinow at LkLifeart@gmail.com
to become involved in this special project!