Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna

We use drones, cameras, whale poop, helicopters, kayaks, underwater videos, hydrophones and more cool gadgets to better understand how marine megafauna feed, move, and survive.

The GEMM Lab


Advancing marine science and conservation through innovative and engaged research

We study where big marine animals like whales, dolphins and seabirds go in the ocean and why. We also research how these animals find and capture food, how healthy they are, what impacts their health, and how we can best predict where these animals will be. We do all this to improve the management of human activities to reduce impacts on the lives and health of these amazing animals.  

We recently developed a website - - to help the public meet the special whales off our coast. We hope you will check it out.

A screenshot of a whale spotting website.


An aerial view of a New Zealand blue whale lunge feeding.

DIAMOND: Drone-based Innovative Assessments of Megafauna Offer New Discoveries Learn how we measure whales using drones (photogrammetry).


Gray whale behaviors filmed by drone.

GRANITE: Gray whale Response to Ambient Noise Informed by Technology and Ecology

Watch Leigh Torres’s keynote presentation at the 2020 State of the Coast Conference titled, “Illuminating the many shades of gray whale life in Oregon waters.”

Project AMBER

Learn how we collect whale poop.

AMBER: Assessing Morphometrics and Behavior of Eschrichtius Robustus

Join the GEMM Lab in the research boat! Watch and navigate through this 360 video footage taken in the GEMM Lab research vessel during a few different days in the 2020 summer. You can see how the drone is assembled and launched, how we document whales using photo-ID, and how we collect a small tissue biopsy sample using a crossbow for molecular analysis.

Activity sheet on how to determine a whale's size from a photograph

How big is that gray whale? / ¿De que tamaño es una ballena gris?

Draw Scarlett and Rose using the measurements below and guide on the next page with the chalk provided. Once you finish your drawing, answer the questions so you can see just how big these animals are!

Dibuja Scarlett y Rose utilizando las medidas abajo y la guía en la otra pagina con la tizaprovista. Cuando  completes tu dibujo, contesta las preguntas para ver realmente lo grande que son estos animales.

Activity Instructions/Instrucciones de actividad (PDF)

Project TOPAZ:

Theodolite Overlooking Predators and Zooplankton (Gray Whale foraging ecology)

The GEMM Lab's fine-scale gray whale foraging ecology project in Port Orford, Oregon

Project JASPER:

Journey for Aspiring Students Pursuing Ecological Research

Lisa Hildebrand’s seminar as part of Cape Perpetua collaborative’s young scientist speaker series given on February 9, 2020.

A small piece of a large puzzle: Investigating Foraging Ecology of Gray Whales on the Oregon Coast.


Watch a video of the GEMM Lab collecting a tissue biopsy sample of a New Zealand blue whale. Photos and biopsy from RHIB GoPro854 11Feb17.

Project OPAL:

Overlap Predictions About Large whales: Identifying co-occurrence between whales and fishing effort in Oregon to reduce entanglement risk

What it's like to survey for whales off the Oregon coast from a US coast guard helicopter. Whale survey effort from a USCG helicopter: observation of a fin whale with Dall's porpoise.


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