Andrea Dransfield wanted to make a difference and take part in research that can solve real world conservation problems. Working with Ellen Hines in the Geography Department at San Francisco State University, in the Marine & Coastal Conservation and Spatial Planning Lab, made this possible.
Partnering with Point Blue (formerly known as PRBO Conservation Science), Dransfield completed a Master’s thesis on humpback whale habitat modeling in the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries. She developed models and identified locations repeatedly used by whales to characterize humpback whale habitat within the Sanctuaries. Dransfield then compared these locations to the past and present San Francisco Bay shipping lanes to assess potential conflicts between whales and vessel traffic.
The new shipping lanes indicated less overlap with critical whale habitat but her research pointed out areas for improvement for future lane adjustment. Her results directly informed management at these Sanctuaries, identified priority areas for whale conservation, formed the basis for future habitat modeling within local Sanctuaries, and exemplified the need for spatial management strategies along coasts with busy ports to reduce the threat of whale ship strikes.