In the absence of direct observations of entanglement events involving baleen whales, the goal of this project is to better understand the dynamics of rope entanglements using computer models.
Dr. Laurens Howle is creating a whale entanglement modeling system as an aid to understanding how whale behaviors and the interaction of gear and whales in a fluid environment explain entanglement events and risk under different scenarios. Using an Xbox 360 controller, the user can "fly" a whale though a virtual environment containing multiple traps, vertical trap lines, and horizontal ground lines. These simulations will consider all parts of the whale body involved in entanglements, mouth and flippers in particular. In much the same way that computer models help aerospace engineers evaluate the performance of aircraft designs, computer aided models will help us study the nature of whale entanglements and the relative merit of various proposed gear modifications.