Mr Chris Burton has been involved in long-term cetacean research in Western Australia since 1985. He has conducted small vessel based research and in cooperation with the whale-watching industry in waters off Perth since 1989 and Geographe Bay and Flinders Bay since 1994, collecting behavioural, acoustic, photo-id, distribution and abundance data on humpback, southern right and blue whales in these areas.
In 2003 he began a long-term land based research project to monitor humpback, blue and other whales in Geographe Bay and partnered with Mr Ron Glencross of Dunsborough Coast and Landcare (D-CALC) to involve the local community in 2004. The data from this work formed the basis of a blue whale genetics sampling project in 2009/10 funded by AMMC in collaboration with Macquarie and Flinders Universities. It has also been used in collaboration with Curtin University in 2010/11 for a pilot Theodolite project and the establishment of SouWest.
Chris has designed and coordinated aerial surveys for blue whales in the deeper waters west of Rottnest Island and south to Cape Naturaliste since 1999, as part of a cooperative program funded by the former Federal Department of Environment and Heritage and the Defence Department to study the ecology of these endangered whales. He has also coordinated similar surveys for humpback whales in Shark Bay in 1999, 2005, 2007 and 2008 for John Bannister of WA Museum.
In 2003 he formed his own company, Western Whale Research (WWR). WWR supplies professional marine fauna observer services to the broader Oil and Gas exploration industry, collecting behavioural and spatial data on cetaceans as well as assisting exploration companies with the mitigation protocols during seismic survey operations. Western Whale Research has provided services for many projects in Australian waters, and internationally in NW Africa and East Timor.
Chris has participated in three international marine mammal research programs, two with the International Whaling Commission (IWC) on blue whales in the Southern Ocean near Australia and Africa in 1996 and 1997, and the third as part of the ‘global ocean warming’ or ATOC project at Heard Island in 1991. Among other requests, he has contributed advice to the Capes Marine Park process, the SW and NW Marine Bioregions review and to the Great Australian Bight Marine Park Marine Mammal Protection Zone – An independent review and risk assessment report to DEWHA.