Dr Madeleine Brasier
I am currently leading a project called the ‘Tasmanian Fluke Project’ which is all about identifying the humpback whales that pass through Tasmanian waters whilst they migrate between their Antarctic feeding grounds and subtropical breeding grounds.
What my project involves
My project involves getting out on the water and collecting images of the underside of humpback whale tails – their flukes. The tailing edge, markings and colouration of each fluke is unique. I then fluke match these images to the Happy whale database to identify each individual whale. If we get a match this can tell us some of the history of that whale, where it has been throughout its distributional range or if it is ‘hanging around’ in Tasmanian waters for prolonged periods of time. If it is a ‘new’ whale we add it to our database with a new identification number.
Fun trivia about my research
The peduncle muscle (i.e. the tail muscle within whales) is the strongest muscle in the entire animal kingdom.
Research project in a haiku
Whilst my research interests are incredibly broad, it is important to me that the outcome of my research can inform ocean conservation and marine management to help protect our oceans.
When not at work or out on the boat collecting images of humpback whale flukes I like running, swimming, snorkelling, knitting beanies and looking for shells on the beach.
Previous work I've done
I actually have a background in Antarctic benthic (seafloor) ecology, I spent years studying marine worms that live on the Southern Ocean seafloor during my PhD at the University of Liverpool UK. When I moved to Tasmania and started working at IMAS I worked on the Marine Ecosystem Assessment of the Southern Ocean (MEASO) project. From there I ended up on several Antarctic krill and whale voyages lead by the Australian Antarctic Division and began to enter the world of marine predators. Through research discussions and collaborative opportunities, I’ve ended up identifying and observing humpback whales in Tasmanian waters on the side of my current role within the Environmental Interactions team at IMAS.