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Come join us: Two-year postdoctoral fellowship available!

Updated: Jun 14

Orbital Whale Watch: The project seeks to establish a satellite-based, cost-effective humpback whale population monitoring approach for the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument



Monitoring whale abundances is time-, energy-, and cost-intensive. Monitoring whale abundances in remote locations is far more difficult, due to the time and expense of accessing those locations. Recent advances in using high-resolution satellite imagery have shown great promise for detecting individual whales from space (i.e., via satellites), yet still no method exists for accurately estimating population sizes from satellite imagery. This gap in understanding hinders conservation and management efforts focused on humpback whales in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM), Hawai’i, and elsewhere in the world. This two-year project (initially) aims to harness the power of remote observation from space by synergizing this data stream with other cutting-edge technologies, including unoccupied areal systems (UAS; drones [data in-hand]), non-invasive suction tags equipped with accelerometers and on-board cameras [data in-hand], and open-source artificial intelligence analytical capabilities in a novel Bayesian data integration population model. Our approach aims to allow managers, researchers, and conservation practitioners to quantify whale population trends in the PRIMNM. The project seeks to establish a satellite-based, cost-effective humpback whale population monitoring approach and subsequently determine the resource, climatic, and anthropogenic factors influencing their migration destination and abundance.



The successful applicant will serve as a Postdoctoral Researcher within the Marine Mammal Research Program (in collaboration with the Elizabeth Madin Lab) in the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Pacific Islands Region (ONMS) / HIMB Pacific Remote Sites Partnership project. The successful applicant will play a crucial role in the project focused developing models to assess humpback whale abundance from satellite imagery. Responsibilities will include handling large amounts of data, working with satellite imagery, and developing novel population abundance models. The Postdoctoral Researcher will have expertise in handling geospatial and other data types via R or Python to process and analyze large-scale environmental patterns is critical, and will have demonstrated a strong record of statistical modeling, which will be a focus in this position. The successful candidate will likely collaborate with other academics, conservation, government, and commercial organizations (e.g., Pacific Whale Foundation, NOAA, Planet, Inc.) to develop a pipeline to estimate whale abundance from satellite imagery and make the methods available to collaborators and natural resource managers. The successful applicant will mentor graduate and undergraduate students, including providing guidance on spatial data analysis techniques and modeling methodologies, will be part of this role. Strong teamwork skills are needed to collaborate effectively with other members of the research team and stakeholders. Publishing research findings in high-quality peer-reviewed journals to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in humpback whale ecology, remote sensing, and population models will be critical. Some travel may be required.


To apply, please visit:  

Applicants must apply online on the Careers page at and submit their application by the closing date to be considered for this recruitment.  Job ID # 224394

Application deadline: 14 July 2024 (11:59 P.M. Hawaii Standard Time/RCUH receipt time)

Start date: the successful candidate MUST be able to start on: 1 September 2024

Location of employment: Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Principal investigators: Lars Bejder and Elizabeth Madin



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