Although this technique is already used in other cetacean species – including killer whales and right whales – it is still in its infancy in belugas. In addition to taking carefully-timed pictures of belugas with a drone while positioning the camera directly above them, we also simultaneously strive to shoot photos from the boat of the same group the drone is hovering over while staying parallel to the animals, as per our photo-ID protocol. That is the real challenge of this project, combining photogrammetry with photo-identification. Why combine these two technologies? In order to be able to recognize drone-photographed individuals and thus be able to track the evolution of their condition over time, whether during a single season or over the course of several years. In short, our new objective is to establish a health chart of all St. Lawrence belugas featured in our photo-identification catalogue.
The first few weeks served as a testing period and required a few adjustments, but in the end we got into a groove and managed to overcome this new challenge. And we’ll certainly face new challenges when it comes time to analyze the data! To be continued!
Preliminary identifications of the week: