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Kate Stafford

Senior Principal Oceanographer

Affiliate Associate Professor, Oceanography





Department Affiliation



B.A. French Literature, Minor: Biology, University of California - Santa Cruz, 1989

M.S. Wildlife Biology, Oregon State University, 1995

Ph.D. Interdisciplinary Oceanography, Oregon State University, 2001


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Acoustic behavior

Stafford, K.M., "Acoustic behavior," in The Bowhead Whale. Balaena Mysticetus: Biology and Human Interactions, J.C. George, and J.G.M. Thewissen, eds. (Academic Press, 2021) 668 pp.

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16 Sep 2020

This volume covers bowhead biology from their anatomy and behavior, to conservation, distribution, ecology and evolution. The book also discusses the biological and physical aspects of the Arctic ecosystem in which these whales live, with careful attention paid to the dramatic changes taking place. A special section of the book describes the interactions of humans with bowheads in past and present, focusing on their importance to Indigenous communities and the challenges regarding entanglement in fishing gear, industrial noise and ship strikes.

This volume brings together the knowledge of bowheads in one place for easy reference for scientists that study the species, marine mammal biologists, but, equally important, for everyone who is interested in the Arctic.

Distribution of blue whale populations in the Southern Indian Ocean based on a decade of acoustic monitoring

Torterotot, M., F. Samaran, K.M. Stafford, and J.-Y. Royer, "Distribution of blue whale populations in the Southern Indian Ocean based on a decade of acoustic monitoring," Deep Sea Res. II, EOR, doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2020.104874, 2020.

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12 Sep 2020

Globally, the Indian Ocean appears to have the greatest blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus ssp) acoustic diversity, with at least four acoustic populations from three defined sub-species. To understand how these different populations use this region as habitat, we first need to characterize their spatial and seasonal distributions. Here, we build on previous passive acoustic monitoring studies and analyze a passive acoustic dataset spanning large temporal (9 years) and spatial (3–9 sites covering more than 12 million km2 of potential acoustic habitat in the southwest Indian Ocean) scales. A novel detection algorithm was employed to investigate the long-term presence of Antarctic blue whale and SEIO and SWIO pygmy blue whale calls. We found that Antarctic and pygmy blue whales have completely different spatial and seasonal distribution in the southern Indian Ocean. Antarctic blue whales are heard almost year-round on the whole array, with great inter-annual variability. The two pygmy blue whales share a highly stable seasonal acoustic presence, but their geographical distributions overlap at only a few central Indian Ocean sites. However, Antarctic and pygmy blue whale acoustic co-occurrence is common, especially in sub-tropical waters. These temporal and spatial distributions strengthen our understanding of seasonal occurrence and habitat use of distinct populations of blue whales in the southern Indian Ocean. A better comprehension of the ecology of Indian Ocean blue whales will require interdisciplinary studies to examine the drivers of the variability seen from passive acoustic studies.

Seasonal acoustic presence of blue, fin, and minke whales off the Juan Fernández Archipelago, Chile (2007–2016)

Buchan, S.J., N. Balcazar-Cabrera, and K.M. Stafford, "Seasonal acoustic presence of blue, fin, and minke whales off the Juan Fernández Archipelago, Chile (2007–2016)," Mar. Biodivers., 50, 76, doi:10.1007/s12526-020-01087-3, 2020.

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29 Aug 2020

The southeast Pacific (SEP) contains the home ranges of several migratory large whale species, determined largely based on research in coastal waters. These whales’ pelagic seasonal residency is unknown. The Juan Fernández Archipelago (JFA) is an offshore island in the SEP where passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) data collection is ongoing at the HA03 hydroacoustic station (sample rate of 250 Hz) maintained by the Preparatory Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. Six years (2007–2009 and 2014–2016) of PAM data from HA03 were examined for the acoustic presence of Antarctic, Chilean (southeast Pacific 1, southeast Pacific 2), and southeast Indian Ocean blue whale song types; the fin whale 20-Hz song; and minke whale vocalizations. The weekly presence or absence of these six vocalization types was annotated manually by an expert analyst and then averaged across all years. For each vocalization type, the number of weeks per month with presence was averaged over all years. Consistently, we found austral wintertime presence of Antarctic blue, fin, and minke whales; and the year-round presence of Chilean blue whales. Southeast Indian Ocean blue whales were also detected, but very rarely. We discuss the possible seasonal movements of each species or acoustic group in the offshore SEP. This is the first year-round multispecies study of baleen whale in the offshore SEP and provides valuable information for understanding the migrations of endangered baleen whales in this region, highlighting the importance of offshore areas as hotspots for baleen whale biodiversity.

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In The News

What the whales hear

For the Wild Podcast, Host, Ayana Young

In this episode of For the Wild with Dr. Kate Stafford, we listen to the many songs the ocean body sings, asking; how does a warming climate alter the Arctic’s soundscape? Why are the waters of the Arctic becoming louder, and what does this mean for kin like the bowhead?

2 Sep 2020

Research project on status of marine creatures launched

Yahoo! News

A research project to assess the status of 27 species of marine mammals and five species of sea turtles in Indian waters has been launched by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (India). Kate Stafford has shared with the new initiative her experience using acoustic sensing technologies in marine mammal stock assessments.

13 Aug 2020

The singing ocean (in Polish)

The Universal Weekly (Kraków), Maria Hawranek

Kate Stafford is interviewed about her research on recording whale songs in the Arctic.

30 Apr 2020

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Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center