Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Earth and Ocean Sciences

First Advisor

Erin Meyer-Gutbrod


Body condition assessments are a valuable tool for evaluating the relative health of a population through various metrics, indexes, or proxies. Long-term data collection can be used to examine the relationship between fluctuations in body condition and natural or anthropogenic drivers. Application of this information is vital for monitoring the success of the conservation management decisions for a species or population. Cetaceans have a variety of methods available to assess body condition, including invasive methods like biopsies and necropsies or observational methods such as photogrammetry. Exploration of the application of these methods in the literature revealed an emphasis on necropsies for providing data on an individual’s body condition. With the continual improvement in technological capabilities, non-invasive methodologies to study living individuals will increase to offer a better perspective on the condition of a population. For a species of cetacean, the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), a new method to assess body condition was developed. Utilizing boat-based photographs in order to access a 30-year dataset, the method presents a more sensitive tool than previously developed for gray whales to track fluctuations in body condition over a season. Application of this method to the larger gray whale population could help reveal underlying drivers of the population’s health, particularly in response to the recent UME.


© 2024, Kira Anne Telford