Norfolk/VA Beach Photo-ID Surveys Aug 2012-Sep 2013
HDR Environmental, Operations and Construction, Inc.

Dataset credit

The U.S. Navy Marine Species Monitoring Program


Primary contact Dana Spontak HDR Environmental, Operations and Construction, Inc.
Data entry Ei Fujioka Duke University



A combination of visual line-transect survey, photo-identification (photo-ID), and automated acoustic monitoring methods is being used to gather important baseline information on the occurrence, distribution, and density of marine mammals near Naval Station Norfolk (NSN) and adjacent areas. The study area was chosen to cover areas where United States (U.S.) Navy activity is substantial, including Chesapeake Bay waters near Naval Station Norfolk, Joint Expeditionary Base (JEB) Little Creek (LC), and JEB Fort Story, as well as a Mine Exercise (MINEX) Area (W-50) in the Atlantic off the coast of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Twenty-five line-transect surveys were completed in two zones (INSHORE and MINEX) between August 2012 and November 2013, with 2,810 kilometers (km) and 8,942 minutes completed on-effort. The majority of sightings were bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), although humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) were also sighted in the study area on occasion. In addition, loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) and leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) were sighted during the study period. Conventional line-transect analysis of bottlenose dolphin sightings showed both spatial and seasonal variation in density and abundance, with greatest abundance in the INSHORE zone during summer months. INSHORE densities were calculated as 3.05 individuals per square kilometer (km2) (N=948) in fall, 0.40 individuals per km2 (N=123) in winter, 1.09 individuals per km2 (N=337) in spring, and 3.52 individuals per km2 (N=1,094) in summer. MINEX densities were calculated as 0.11 individuals per km2 (N=105) in fall, 0.00 individuals per km2 (N=0) in winter, 0.10 individuals per km2 (N=90) in spring, and 0.16 individuals per km2 (N=148) in summer. A photo-ID catalog was created using photos taken during both dedicated photo-ID and line-transect surveys through July 2013; it contains 308 identified individuals to date. Thirty-three individuals were re-sighted; however, most sightings were less than three months and 15 km apart. Additional survey effort will be required before any clear movement patterns can be determined. C-POD acoustic data loggers ( were deployed at four sites throughout the study area to cover areas of high U.S. Navy activity. Harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) were detected in low numbers near NSN and JEB-LC during winter and spring deployments, and bottlenose dolphins were detected in each deployment location during all deployments from August 2012 to September 2013. Deployments, however, did not provide consistent coverage due to loss of gear. Further study is required to improve accuracy in seasonal density estimates and allow further stratification of those estimates, and to better describe the movement patterns and site fidelity of the bottlenose dolphins in these waters. Visual surveys and additional C-POD deployments are currently planned through August 2014.


The HDR Marine Species Monitoring (MSM) Team was tasked to initiate a monitoring project in coastal waters around NSN, JEB-LC, JEB-FS, and the Virginia Beach waterfront, including the VACAPES MINEX W-50 training area. The main objective is to provide quantitative data and information on the seasonal occurrence, distribution, and density of marine mammals. Effort was dedicated to working with local researchers and employing proven marine mammal monitoring and research techniques to accomplish the following:

1. Conduct monthly systematic line-transect surveys to determine distribution of marine mammals in the vicinity of NSN, JEB-LC, JEB-FS, and the MINEX W-50 area.

2. Conduct monthly photo-identification (photo-ID) surveys during summer months to determine the site fidelity and distributional patterns of marine mammals utilizing the areas listed above.

3. Supplement visual surveys by deploying and retrieving four C-POD acoustic recording devices to monitor for dolphin echolocation clicks in specific locations.

Supplemental information

This dataset includes sightings from photo-id surveys. No images and information on individual animals are provided.

This dataset includes a subset of the data collection for the Norfolk-VABeach Vessel surveys.
Other data of the collection are available in the following datasets:
Norfolk/VA Beach Inshore Vessel Surveys Nov 2012- Nov 2013
Norfolk/VA Beach MINEX Vessel Surveys

All the US Navy-funded survey datasets are found in the OBIS-SEAMAP US Navy page.




Attributes described below represent those in the original dataset provided by the provider.
Only minimum required attributes are visible and downlodable online. Other attributes may be obtained upon provider's permission unless otherwise noted below.

This section explains attributes included in the original dataset. OBIS-SEAMAP restricts the attributes available to the public to date/time, lat/lon and species names/counts only. Should you need other attributes described here, you are encouraged to contact the data provider.

Attributes in dataset provided

Attribute (table column)Description
oidUnique ID number (generated by OBIS-SEAMAP)
altitudemThe altitude of the observation platform (plane, vessel bridge, etc) above sea level in meters
animalspeedA calculation based on multiple resights, calculating the distance travelled by the time elapsed between sighting events in knots
areakm2The area in km2 over which the survey took place in km2
aspectslopeBathymetric slope aspect at location of animal in degrees
bearingRelative bearing from the platform to the sighting, where the front of the platform is zero degrees. Formats include clock face, degrees, etc. degrees; 1
bearingabsTrue (not magnetic) bearing to sighting. Calculated from relative bearing and platform bearing. degrees
beaufortscaleBeaufort sea state (0-12)
beaufortscaleleftBeaufort sea state on the left (port) side of the platform (0-12)
beaufortscalerightBeaufort sea state on the right (starboard) side of the platform (0-12)
behaviorInitial behavioral state of the animal or group when first observed. Examples: Travel, Mill, Rest
behavioreventDiscrete behavioral event(s) observed during the sighting. Examples: Breach, Tail Slap, Blow
biopsyWas a biopsy attempted for the sighting? (Y/N)
birdsAre birds present? (Y/N)
calvespresentAre calves present? Use notes field to indicate number of calves present. (Y/N)
countcalvesThe number of calves in the sighting
countfemalesThe number of positively identified females in the sighting
countjuvenilesThe number of positively identified juveniles in the sightings
countmalesThe number of positively identified males in the sighting
countnewbornsThe number of positively identified newborns/pups in the sighting
obs_countThe best estimate of the number of animals in the sighting
counttotmaxThe highest estimate of the number of animals in the sighting
counttotminThe lowest estimate of the number of animals in the sighting
countvescargoThe number of cargo ships present in the area
countvesferriesThe number of ferries present in the area
countvesfishingThe number of fishing boats present in the area
countvesmilitaryThe number of military vessels present in the area
countvesmotoryachtsThe number of motor yachts present in the area
countvesotherThe number of vessels in the area that do not fall into the above categories
countvessailingThe number of sailboats present in the area
cueThe sighting cue that initially drew the observers attention
obs_datetimeDate and Time together in one cell value (LOCAL TIME)
datetimeutcDate and Time together in one cell value (UTC)
depthThe depth of the water at sighting location, based on known bathymetry in meters(the value comes from the software and/or GPS so the depth may not be a "true" depth)
depthsoundingDepth as determined in situ via sounding in meters
dispmaxThe maximum distance between nearest neighbors within a group (in body lengths)
dispminThe minimum distance between nearest neighbors within a group (in body lengths)
distsightThe radial distance to the animal
distsightperpThe perpendicular distance to the animal from the trackline
effortstatusThe effort status of the platform. Options: On-effort (systematic), on-effort (focal follow), on-effort (circling), on-effort (random), off-effort (connector lines), off-effort (transiting), off-effort (other)
flightofdayThe sequential daily flight identifier (e.g., 1, 2, 3, etc.)
glareleftThe amount of glare (0-100%) on the left (port) side of the platform. Refers to glare from 0 to 90 degrees, or viewshed for which observer is reponsible (percent).
glarerightThe amount of glare (0-100%) on the right (starboard) side of the platform. Refers to glare from 270-360 degrees, or viewshed for which observer is reponsible (percent).
groupidIdentifier for a particular group within a sighting
headinganimalHeading of the animal at the time of the initial sighting (in degrees magnetic)
headingplatmagneticHeading of the observation platform relative to magnetic North in degrees
headingplattrueHeading of the observation platform relative to true North in degrees
horizsunHorizontal glare calculation on NOAA large vessel surveys (1 o
latitudeThe calculated latitude of the animal at the initial time of the sighting in decimal degrees
latplatformThe latitude of the platform in decimal degrees
latvesselThe latitude of the vessel(s) (NOT the survey platform) sighted during a survey in decimal degrees
legidLetter or number for survey leg/transect
legnotesNotes as entered for that particular leg of the survey
legnumberA unique identifier for the leg associated with the survey
linearityA metric describing animal travel, calculated by dividing the distance between the first and last recorded sighting waypoints by the sum total of all distances between waypoints. Values range between 0 and 1, with a number closer to 1 representing a straight line and close to 0 representing no constant direction of the animal.”
longitudeThe calculated longitude of the animal at the initial time of the sighting in decimal degrees
longplatformThe Longitude of the platform in decimal degrees
longvesselThe longitude of the vessel(s) (NOT the survey platform) sighted during a survey in decimal degrees
mitigationWas mitigation implemented? (Y/N)
mitigationtypeType of mitigation implemented
navydirectedlegMarker identifying whether the platform was directed by the Navy to go to a certain location, fly at a certain altitude, or leave the immediate area (Y/N)
observerThe name of the observer who first sighted the animal
observeraftName of the observer in the aft position
observercenterName of the observer in the center position or belly window of the aircraft
observerforwardName of the observer in the forward position
observerleftName of the observer on the left (port) side of the platform
observerrearleftName of the observer in the rear left seat of the aircraft
observerrearrightName of the observer in the rear right seat of the aircraft
observerrightName of the observer on the right (starboard) side of the platform
oceanThe ocean where the survey took place (Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, etc.)
opticstypeIndicates the type of optic used to fix a particular sighting (e.g., bigeyes, handheld binos, theodolite, naked eye). Useful when a platform uses several methods to sight animals
ordnanceWas live ordnance in use at the time of the sighting? (Y/N)
percentcloudcoverCloud cover as represented by a percentage (percent)
percentcloudcoverleftCloud cover on the left (port) side of the platform as represented by a percentage (percent)
percentcloudcoverrightCloud cover on the right (starboard) side of the platform as represented by a percentage (percent)
photoframesThe photo frames used for the sighting; or total frames taken
photogapherName of the photographer
photosWere photos taken as part of the sighting? (Y/N)
picPilot in command
platformdedIndicates if the survey was a dedicated marine mammal survey, or if data was gathered opportunistically from a platform on a different mission (Y/N)
platformmodelModel of a/c or vessel (e.g. Partenavia Observer, RHIB, etc.)
platformspeedSpeed of the platform at the time of the sighting in knots
platformtypeType of survey platform (e.g., "aerial", "vessel")
rangecomplexThe Range complex (or complexes) associated with the survey (JAX, SOCAL, Cherry Point, etc.)
reactioninitThe type of reaction at the initial time of the sighting relative to the observation platform
reactioninitcountThe general count of animals that initially reacted to the observation platform. May be a number or text (i.e., "whole group")
reactionlaterIdentifies whether a reaction occurred as a response to the survey platform after the initial sighting of the group/individual
reactionlatercountThe number of animals that reacted to the observation platform after the sighting occurred
recorderName of the person recording data
recorderfocalName of the person recording focal follow data
reorientationrateA magnitude of course changes along the trackline, calculated by summing all course changes (degrees) along the trackline divided by duration (minutes) of the trackline (Smultea and Wursig, 1995; course changes/minute).
resolutionBathymetric resolution in arc degrees at sighting position in decimal degrees
shoredistDistance to nearest shore in meters
sicSecond (pilot) in command
sightingdetectionsensorSighting detection method (e.g. MMO, lookout, bridge, acoustic)
sightingendloeWas Sighting 1. lost, or 2. Passed Beam (Lookout Effectiveness surveys only)
sightingmultiDenotes if there are any additional species within a particular sighting (mixed group) (Y/N)
sightingnotesNotes field to capture information not covered by existing attributes or other information of interest
sightingnumberThe sighting number for the particular survey day
sightingrelmovementRelative movement of vessel and animal’s bearing (e.g. closing, opening, parallel, )
sightingtimeendThe time at which the sighting was discontinued
sightingtrialloeWhether sighting was successful Lookout Effectiveness Trial
slopeBathymetric slope at sighting location (angle)
sonarWas sonar active at the time of the sighting? (Y/N)
spcscodeSpecies code used in authentic data (e.g., TTUR=Tursiops truncatus)
spcsconfidenceConfidence level of the observer that he or she identified species correctly (high/medium/low)
spcshauledoutIndicates if a pinniped is hauled out (Y/N)
spcsitisITIS numeric species code
spcsnmcomCommon name of the sighted species. Output should be singular (e.g. bottlenose dolphin)
sp_obsScientific name of the sighted species
sp_tsnTaxonomic Serial Number added by OBIS-SEAMAP
surveyidA survey identifier consisting of data collector, range complex, platform, year, month, and day. (Data Collector/Source)_(Range Complex)_(Platform Type or Details)_(Year)(Month)(Day) (eg. SES_SOCAL_Aerial_20120417)
surveypointA waypoint taken along a trackline OR a start/end point for a trackline
swellSwell height in ft
swelldirectionDirection of swell (0º to 360º, or N/S/E/W)
taggingWas a tag deployment attempted for the sighting? (Y/N)
theoconvhorzHorizontal angle value from theodolite converted to a compass bearing in degrees
theoconvvertVertical angle value from theodolite converted to a declination angle in degrees
theorawhorzRaw horizontal angular value from theodolite in degrees
theorawvertRaw vertical angular value from theodolite in degrees
trkdistDistance between two trackline points, in meters
vertangleorreticleReticle or declination angle in degrees
vertsunVertical glare calculation on NOAA large vessel surveys (0,1,2 or 3)
vesselsize0-99 ft = small, 100-300 ft = medium, >301 ft = large
vesseltypeType of vessel observed (e.g. frigate, sailboat, submarine)
videoWas video taken during the sighting? (Y/N)
videographerName of the videographer
visibilityThe estimated distance at which an animal could potentially be sighted in km
visibilityleftSighting visibility in KM on the left (port) side of the platform in km
visibilityrightSighting visibility in KM on the right (starboard) side of the platform in km
waveheightWave height in ft
winddirectionWind direction relative to true north (0º to 360º, or N/S/E/W)
windspeedWind speed in knots
geomGeometry field added by OBIS-SEAMAP
Marine mammals44
Sea turtles2
Rays and sharks0
Other species0
Non spatial0
Non species0
Date, Begin2012-08-09
Date, End2013-09-16
Temporal prec.111111
Latitude36.81 - 37.00
Longitude-76.34 - -75.96
Coord. prec.6 decimal digits
Data typeAnimal sighting
EffortYES (ID: 1203)
Traveled (km)740
Effort hours9,678
Contr. throughNavy
Sharing policy CC-BY (All)
Also availalbe from iOBIS
See metadata in static HTML
See metadata in FGDC XML
See download history / statistics