Whale Tracks

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This image shows a visualization revealing the path of a humpback whale over the course of several hours. The data were acquired from a tag attached to the whale via suction cups that recorded depth, angular acceleration and magnetic north. These data were used to construct the pseudo-track ribbon. The saw tooth patterns represent angular accelerations due to fluke strokes. Twists in the ribbon reveal rolling behavior. The ribbon plot makes patterns of behavior much more clearly evident. For example it shows that this particular whale always swam up and glided down. Also, a particular foraging behavior, side-rolls, believe to be in pursuit of a small fish species called sand lance, was revealed to be ubiquitous and highly stereotyped. The ribbon plot is a key feature of an interactive 3D application TrackPlot that was developed to allow ethologists to better interpret the underwater behavior of individual whales. Previous to its development, researchers had either “played back” the motion of the whale or constructed depth-time graphs. Neither of these techniques was as effective in revealing complex 3D patterns. Future challenges include visualizing the interactions of multiple tagged whales and visualizing whale-prey interactions.

C. Ware, R.A. Arsenault, D. Wiley, and M. Plumlee, "Visualizing the underwater behavior of humpback whales," IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 14--18, July/August 2006.