Keynote Talk

Views from above: how drones help us monitor the health of whales


Join us for this year's keynote talk presented by Dr. K.C. Bierlich and PhD candidate Clara Bird from Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute's Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna (GEMM) Lab. 

Together they will discuss how they use drones as a non-invasive method to study the morphology, behavior, and health of baleen whales.

Both speakers have extensive experience using drones to study Antarctic minke whales, humpback whales, blue whales, and gray whales, and will share key insights and discoveries they have made using this technology. 

This event is a free, hybrid event.


The talk begins at 1 p.m. and lasts about one hour. It will be held in the Carmen Ford Phillips Auditorium in the Gladys Valley Marine Studies Building.



Or Telephone:  Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):

  •     +1 971 247 1195 US (Portland)
  •     +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
  •     +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)

Webinar ID: 931 3412 6618



Speaker Bios

Dr. K.C. Bierlich

Dr. K.C. Bierlich is a postdoctoral scholar in the Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna (GEMM) Lab led by Dr. Leigh Torres at the Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute (MMI). K.C. is also the Director of MMI’s new Center of Drone Excellence (CODEX), which focuses on developing analytical methods for using drones to monitor the health of marine mammal populations. CODEX has developed several innovative hardware and software tools to help researchers using drones collect and analyze important health data on marine mammals.

K.C. uses drones as a non-invasive method to study the morphology and health of baleen whales. Currently, K.C. studies a unique group of gray whales, called the Pacific Coast Feeding Group (PCFG), who feed along the Oregon Coast in the summer. K.C. is analyzing how PCFG gray whale body size has changed over generations and how their body condition is influenced by changes in the environment and habitat quality (as part of the GEMM Lab’s GRANITE Project). K.C. also is currently studying the impacts of climate change on krill and Pygmy blue whales in Aotearoa New Zealand (as part of the GEMM Lab’s SAPPHIRE Project). Before coming to OSU, K.C. earned his PhD from Duke University, where he used drones to study the morphology and coloration patterns of Antarctic minke whales and how humpback whales increase their body condition over the course of the feeding season.


Clara Bird

Clara Bird is a PhD candidate in the GEMM Lab at the MMI under the supervision of Dr. Leigh Torres. Her work is focused on studying the behavioral ecology of foraging gray whales off the coast of Oregon. She’s interested in understanding how their feeding behavior varies across habitats and individual characteristics, including size, body condition and sex. Clara is originally from Michigan and earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Duke University, where she conducted research using drones on Adelie penguins, and humpback and minke whales.