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Hannah Cubaynes BSc, MSc

Hannah Cubaynes BSc, MSc

PhD Candidate in Remote Sensing and Marine Conservation

"Whales from space: studying baleen whales using satellite images" - Joint project between the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS)



  • 2016 - 2020: PhD candidate in Geography/Polar Studies, British Antarctic Survey and Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge (Darwin College), UK
  • 2013 - 2016: Marine wildlife observer and passive acoustic monitoring operator (MMO, PSO, PAM) Gardline, UK
  • 2009: Research assistant in benthic ecology, Institut des Sciences de la MER de Rimouski (ISMER, institute of the sciences of the sea), Canada
  • 2008: Marine acoustic technician, ISMER, Canada


  • 2010-2011: MSc in Marine Environmental Management (Distinction), University of York (Vanbrugh College), UK
  • 2007-2010: BSc in Biology with an emphasis in Marine Sciences, University of Quebec at Rimouski, Canada
  • 2009: CREPUQ student exchange, Humboldt State University, USA


Supervisors: Dr Peter Fretwell (BAS) and Gareth Rees (SPRI)

Baleen whale stocks have precipitously declined following the period of intense commercial whaling between 17th and 19th centuries. Now they are facing new threats, in particular entanglement and ship collisions. In order to promote whale population recovery, it is crucial to know where and how many of them there are. Currently, they are being monitored through traditional methods (i.e. boat-based and aerial surveys) which present some definite advantages. However, they prove inadequate when it comes to survey inaccessible and/or large areas of the ocean. A new, innovative method, very high resolution (VHR) satellite imagery, has the potential to overcome these obstacles.

For my PhD, I assessed the feasibility of using VHR satellite images to study baleen whales. Now I focus on developing this technology to other marine mammals.


  • Cubaynes, H.C., Rees, W.G., Jackson, J.A., Moore, M., Sformo, T.L., McLellan, W.A., Niemeyer, M.E., C. George, J., van der Hoop, J., Forcada, J., Trathan, P. and P.T. Fretwell. 2018. Spectral reflectance of whale skin above the sea surface: a proposed measurement protocol. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation, 00(00): 1-13 doi: 10.1002/rse2.155
  • Cubaynes, H.C., Fretwell, P.T., Bamford, C. Gerrish L., and J.A. Jackson. 2018. Whales from space: Four mysticete species described using new VHR satellite imagery. Marine Mammal Science, 35(2): 466-491 doi: 10.1111/mms.12544

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