Applying Spectator GO! to monitor the behavior of marine mammals.

Marine ecotourism, seismic drilling, and military sonar have been implemented as significant anthropogenic impacts on marine mammals. These concerns have raised the need for more behavioral monitoring of marine mammals to determine the type and magnitude of these behavioral impacts. However, the reliability and validity of such behavioral data can be questionable due to inconsistencies between and across observers.


As part of a monitoring program to document marine mammals exposed to nearby naval exercises, aerial surveys are being conducted to document impacts on marine mammals in and around these areas. When a species is sighted from the plane, a focal follow is initiated, and behavioral events and states are recorded. Spectator Go! for the iPhone is being used as an efficient, and portable method for recording this behavioral data.

The program has great flexibility and can be customized for most field situations. The simplicity of tapping a button to record events, or for toggling between behavioral states, allows for the collection of more accurate data in a shorter amount of time. The simplicity of the user interface also allows new users to begin collecting data with little or no training, while maintaining a high level of inter-observer reliability.

Time sampling is made easy by setting a time interval to a notify the user when it is time to collect data, or when the duration period of data collection is complete. In addition, GPS and altitude information (retrieved from the iPhone) are automatically added to each record entry.

The companion Spectator Go! desktop software allows for custom configurations and quick preliminary analysis of the data. This includes graphical views of the data and summary statistics. The ability to export the data to Excel is also a nice feature for more in depth analysis.

We have found no program of its kind that allows for a compact, versatile, easy to use behavioral recording system that incorporates GPS and altitude information.

Mark H. Deakos
President, Founder, Treasurer, and Chief Scientist of The Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research, Inc. (HAMER)

Lahaina, Hawaii, USA