Photo of Shane Gero

Shane Gero

Scientist in Residence; Adjunct Research Professor

Degrees:B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D. (Dalhousie)


Current Research

My research is motivated by a fundamental desire to understand animal societies, how and why they form, and more recently, by necessity, what happens when they fall apart. My most recent research has focused the intersection between culture, social behaviour and vocal communication among whales; and importantly, how these act in consort to create population structure across biologically meaningful scales. Alongside the graduate student, we study social networks based on AI and computer vision driven photoidentification, use molecular genetics to support my understanding of these bonds, and both passive acoustic recorders and animal-borne sound and movement tags to understand how these social relationships are mediated through communication to coordinate as a group, identify conspecifics, exchange information, and divide communities among whales.

In 2005, I founded The Dominica Sperm Whale Project (DSWP) and have since spent thousands of hours in the company of sperm whale families. Few populations of cetaceans have been this well characterized and this enables research which examines the relationships between all of these factors at the individual level. Graduate student research has covered a wide topic base as diverse as foraging ecology, habitat use, acoustic communication, diet, genetic population structure, animal social networks, and population biology. Ultimately, the DSWP reaches from individual behaviour to population level processes and uses multiple approaches to study how behaviour and social structure are mechanisms which drive demographic patterns, distribution, and movement.

I believe that we have an obligation to use our science to drive change in our society. The DSWP also focuses on our impacts on a changing ocean and anthropogenic disturbance and mitigation. My students and I work closely with governments, as well as local and international NGOs to jointly apply this knowledge towards conservation actions including national ocean policies and marine spatial plans, multinational regional passive acoustic monitoring plans, and through providing evidence-based recommendations from a data depauperate part of our ocean. Further, we bring this understanding to international fora including the IWC, IUCN, and UNEP to reframe largescale conservation policy.

In 2021, in partnership with new collaborators at Aarhus University, CUNY, Harvard, ICL, MIT, UC: Berkeley, and University of Haifa, we launched Project CETI an interdisciplinary initiative that aims to apply advanced machine learning and state-of-the art robotics to listen to and decode the communication of sperm whales.

Selected Publications

T. Hersh, S. Gero, L. Rendell, H. Whitehead (In Press) Using identity calls to delineate community structure in acoustic datasets. Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

P.C. Bermant, M.M. Bronstein, R.J. Wood, S. Gero#, and D.F. Gruber# (2019) Deep Machine Learning Techniques for Sperm Whale Bioacoustics: Detection and Classification of Echolocation Clicks and Codas. Scientific Reports. 9, Article number: 12588      # Co-senior authors

W.A.M. Beslin, H. Whitehead, and S. Gero (2019) Automatic acoustic estimation of sperm whale body lengths achieved through machine recognition of on-axis clicks. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 144, 3485

C. Konrad, T. Frasier, L. Rendell, H. Whitehead, and S. Gero (2018) Kinship and association do not explain variation in vocal repertoire among individual sperm whales or their social units. Animal Behaviour. 145: 131-140.

P. Tønnesen, S. Gero, M. Ladegaard, M. Johnson, and P.T. Madsen (2018) First year sperm whale calves echolocate and perform long, deep dives. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology. 72: 165-180.

S. Gero and H. Whitehead (2016) Critical Decline of the Eastern Caribbean Sperm Whale Population. PLoS ONE 11 (10): e0162019.

S. Gero, A. Bøttcher, H. Whitehead, and P.T. Madsen (2016) Socially segregated, sympatric sperm whales clans in the Atlantic Ocean. Royal Society Open Science 3: 160061

S. Gero, H. Whitehead, and L. Rendell (2016) Individual, unit, and vocal clan level identity cues in sperm whale codas. Royal Society Open Science 3: 150372.

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