Humpback whale breaching.Humpback whale breaching.Though he grew up in the Midwest, Davis Yeo ’16 spent much of his childhood on the shores of Georgetown Island in southern Maine. The state always felt more like home to him than Wisconsin had, and spending time on the coast is largely what sparked his passion for the study of marine sciences, which he’s followed during his time at COA. Yeo knew that he wanted to come to Maine for college and pursue a unique, non-traditional education. After visiting COA, he knew the school would be an obvious fit.

“I wanted to go to college in Maine, and COA ended up being one of my top choices when I was looking through a list of schools, along with Bates, Bowdoin, and UNE,” he explained. “I really liked how different it was from the traditional college experience, and I decided to go with it after visiting the campus for a tour and interview. I applied, got accepted, and am now in my final year.”

Davis Yeo ’16Davis Yeo ’16Yeo has focused primarily on marine biology and oceanography while at COA. On top of taking classes in the area, he also works at Allied Whale, the college’s marine mammal laboratory. Last winter, Yeo completed an internship at the Virginia Aquarium where he helped identify and catalog humpback whales wintering off the coast of Virginia Beach. It was here that Davis gained the knowledge and experience needed to continue with field research and analysis. For his senior project, Yeo is combining his passion for science and marine life with his experiences in the field for an extensive endeavor that he hopes will yield positive benefits for Allied Whale.

As Yeo describes it, “Allied Whale keeps a database of fluke photos from over 8,000 individual animals, known as the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalog. The pattern on a humpback whale’s fluke is unique to each animal, like a fingerprint, and by comparing the photos, we can track the whales around the Atlantic and gather data on how they move and behave,” Yeo says.

“Matching these photos, however, is a long and arduous process, so for my senior project, I wanted to research potential methods of doing this through photo ID software. To do this, I’ve been putting thousands of photos through a program called Fluke Matcher, which will then be used in a matching test. I’m also writing a report on several similar programs in order to compare the pros and cons of each one. While the actual implementation of any matching software for Allied Whale is still somewhat far away, this project will hopefully make the final decision a bit easier.”

Fluking Fin Whale.Fluking Fin Whale.Fluke Matcher, the software Yeo is using, is a photo ID program released in 2010 by three Australian researchers: Dr. Eric Kneist of the University of Newcastle, Dr. Daniel Burns, and Professor Peter Harrison of the Southern Cross University. Each whale photo must be processed in a specific way to allow the program to identify unique features and patterns, and in addition to the software work, Yeo has been doing a fair bit of investigating as well, contacting several organizations who are developing similar and updated software. 

After graduating, Yeo plans to continue his studies at a technical college for a semester, i order to take more calculus and physics classes. Following that, he plans to continue with his passion for oceanic studies by applying to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Corps with a focus on diving. Between his courses at COA, field experience he’s had, and the completion of his senior project, Yeo is prepared to continue with his passions wherever they may take him.