Masters by Research (MRes)
with the Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, Scotland and the North Coast Cetacean Society (“BC Whales”), British Columbia, Canada.
My Master’s by Research is a population genetics and conservation oriented project, whereby I sampled the blow, or exhalant, of humpback and fin whales using a small quadcopter drone. The blow is a non-invasive source of DNA, with which I am aiming to address important ecological and genetic questions by first genetically mapping the roots of the whales’ heritage and kinship. Small drones have been shown to be non-invasive and less disturbing to whales than more commonly adopted sampling approaches, including biopsy sampling using specialized crossbows. The area within which I conducted the field work is proposed critical habitat in need of official protection for both species, seeing high levels of side fidelity and abundance each year. It also falls within the indigenous territory of the Gitga’at First Nation, without whom this project would not be possible.
In 2023, liquefied natural gas tankers will begin passing through the study area, increasing ship traffic ten fold. This poses an increased risk of ship strike and increases levels of mechanical noise introduced into this for-now pristine coastal environment. Together, the BC Whales team and members of the Gitga’at First Nation are working on various projects aiming to collectively understand the habitat use, anthropogenic stressors, acoustics, morphology and genetic makeup of humpbacks, fin whales and orca within this area. This aims to better assess the impacts of tanker traffic and strive to protect these vulnerable populations of marine megafauna within the territory and beyond.
IGTV March 2020 update: Éadín’s IGTV
North Coast Cetacean Society: Drone-based research project
Drones and Whales: Save Our Seas article part I
#Snot4Conservation: Save Our Seas article part II
Crowdfunding campaign: chuffed.org/project/humpbacks
Publications and Presentations
Keen, EM, J Wren, É O’Mahony, J Wray (submitted, September 2020) ‘catRlog: a photo-identification project management system based in R’ Mammalian Biology
É O’Mahony (2020) Episode #10 Their Life Story Podcast, available on all major streaming platforms.
Keen, EM, J Wray, B Hendricks, É O’Mahony, C Picard, H Alidina (accepted, July 2020) ‘Determining marine mammal detection functions for a stationary land-based survey site.’ Wildlife Research.
É O’Mahony and Doug Allan (2020) Episode #4: Biodiversity. The Higher Biology Podcast, available on all major streaming platforms.
O’Mahony, É, Wray, J, Keen, EM. (2019) Non-invasive blow and aerial imagery collection for genetic and photographic comparison of putatively discrete groups of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in northern British Columbia. Presentation at World Marine Mammal Conference, Barcelona, Spain.
O’Mahony, É (2019) Protecting Canada’s coastal wilderness, through drone research on threatened whale populations. – NUIG Marine Society special guest lecture, National University Ireland, Galway.
O’Mahony, É (2018) Humpback whale mother-calf habitat use in northern British Columbia, Canada. Presentation at YOUMARES 9 Marine Biology Conference, Oldenburg, Germany.
O’Mahony, É, Fiennes, S, Vrettos, C, Salazar, M (2018) The Climate Collective presents ‘Vulnerabilities: a climate change exploration.’ The Embassy of El Salvador, London, UK.
O’Mahony, É, Fiennes, S, Vrettos (2017) The Climate Collective presents ‘What Climate Change?’ University College London (UCL), London, UK.