While offshore wind energy inspires hope for a low-carbon electric grid, this climate solution may simultaneously threaten marine wildlife and ecosystems in ways that are not fully understood. In this analysis, I support the Department of Energy (DoE) and BOEM funded Wildlife and Offshore Wind (WOW) project by quantifying spatiotemporal overlap between the following species of interest and wind energy lease sites in the U.S. Atlantic: The Fin whale, Common minke whale, Humpback whale, North Atlantic right whale, Red-throated loon, Northern gannet and Great black-backed gull. Additionally, I leverage geospatial tools to assess the representativeness of marine wildlife abundance levels in project WOW field sites (Vineyard Wind and Empire Wind) relative to other wind energy areas. Results from this analysis improve our understanding of how species of interest may interact with wind energy areas in the US Atlantic, and how applicable or relevant project WOW field data will be for planning or management decisions in other wind energy lease sites.
To conduct this analysis, I acquired species-specific distribution products from the OBISSEAMAP model repository. After processing these distribution products to achieve equal temporal resolutions across all species of interest, I generated zonal statistics to acquire mean density values for each species, in each season, in each wind energy lease site. BOEM wind energy lease sites were buffered by 10 kilometers prior to generating zonal statistics in order to stay consistent with similar ongoing Project WOW analyses. Density values are measured in number of individuals per 100 square kilometers and are visualized in maps and tables to provide insight into: 1) where, when and to what extent do species of interest overlap with wind energy areas, and 2) how representative project WOW field sites are to other wind energy areas in terms of marine wildlife abundance.