Category Archives: Conservation

Conservation Grant Program 2024

The SMM Conservation Grant Program will be accepting proposals for new grants in July 2024.

The SMM has established a conservation endowment to help fund grants to catalyze real conservation efforts for the world’s most endangered marine mammal species.

How to enter:
Eligibility and application details are available at call-for-smm-conservation-fund-proposals

For more details or to donate to this fund, contact the Conservation Fund Coordinator at
For information on previous awards, see /smm-conservation-fund-awardees

Application deadline: 31 July 2024.
Awardees will be announced at the biennial conference.

2022 Louis M. Herman Research Scholarship Winners

In 2022, the Louis M. Herman Research Scholarship received 17 proposals from Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong SAR, Madagascar, Mexico, Nicaragua, Scotland and the United States of America. The quality of submissions was extremely high, so much so that the Awards Committee is delighted to announce that this year there are two successful applicants; “Eavesdropping on Whales – Does Humpback Whale Song Convey Genetic Quality?” submitted by Franca Eichenberger of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland and “Exploring vocal development in humpback whales” submitted by Julia Zeh of Syracuse University, the United States of America

Click here to read the winning abstracts and find out more about Franca and Julia’s winning proposals. Congratulations to both our winners and we wish you success as your projects progress.
Thank you,
Lindsay Porter
Chair, Awards and Scholarships Committee
Society for Marine Mammalogy


Find out more about Louis M. Herman’s work and his legacy at the Dolphin Institute:

The Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) announces six conservation awards totaling $140K!

The Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) announces six conservation awards totaling $140K!

Over the past several years the SMM has raised money for a newly created Conservation Fund. The purpose of this endowment fund is to support research and education projects worldwide that can help catalyze real conservation action to save the world’s most endangered marine mammals.

Conservation proposals were solicited from the SMM Members in July 2021 for the first round of awards. Each of the 41 submitted proposals were judged by at least three members of the SMM Conservation Committee or Committee of Scientific Advisors. Scores were tallied and normalized to adjust for individual differences among judges.  Initially, we expected to fund only two proposals (for a maximum of $25,000 each) from the Conservation Fund endowment.  However, that would have left many outstanding proposals unfunded.  Last-minute fund-raising provide an additional $90,000, allowing us to fund the top six proposals. The funded proposals include two in South America, one in Africa, and three in southern Asia. Research will occur in 12 countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Colombia, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Liberia, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Senegal. A brief summary of each project is given below.

“This is the culmination of years of effort, and it is rewarding to see such a fine collection of projects for our inaugural year” says SMM Conservation Fund coordinator, Jay Barlow. He adds, “However, the quality of the remaining unfunded projects shows how great the need is and how many people are willing to help save the world’s marine mammal species.  We need to raise more funds so that we can do more.”

Project Summaries:

Title: Harnessing local ecological knowledge to fill data gaps and support conservation of the Critically Endangered Atlantic humpback dolphin (Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Liberia, Senegal & Gambia). 

PIs: Aristide Kamla Takoukan (& team)

Summary:  This project will use interview-based survey campaigns in Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Liberia, The Gambia and Senegal to gain local ecological knowledge about the distribution, conservation status, and threats to  Critically Endangered Atlantic humpback dolphins.

Find out more at:
African Marine Mammal Conservation Organization (AMMCO):  and  and

Consortium for the Conservation of the Atlantic Humpback Dolphin (CCAHD):   and  and

Title:  How many Amazon river dolphin species are there? “Capturing” genomic and morphological evidence to clarify the Inia’s taxonomy to help their conservation (Colombia, Brazil & Bolivia).

PIs: Susana Caballero Gaitan & Larissa Oliveira

Summary:  Obtain morphological and genomic (“museomics”) information, using mostly specimens from Museums around the world to understand and clarity the controversial taxonomy of the Inia genus.

Title: Developing a necropsy program to determine the efficacy of reducing Mekong River dolphin mortality with a River Guard enforcement and outreach program (Cambodia)

PIs: Somay Phay, Eam Sam Un, Francis Gulland.

Summary: This project aims to determine the causes of Mekong River dolphin mortality, and to assess the efficacy of an established River Guard program to reduce deaths of these animals.

Find out more:

Title: An integrated approach to the conservation of coastal cetaceans in the Gulf of Mottama, Myanmar

PIs: Wint Hte, Yin Yin Htay, and Tara Whitty.

Summary: The project will establish an acoustic monitoring program for N. phocaenoides, estimate bycatch rates in small-scale fisheries through Rapid Bycatch Assessments, refine understanding of the current and past distribution of these species in the Gulf of Mottama through Local Ecological Knowledge surveys, and train community youths in research and community engagement skills.

Find out more:

Title: Veterinary capacity building to fill vital knowledge gaps for the endangered Indus River dolphins (Platanista minor) rescued from irrigation canals (Pakistan).

PIs: Forrest Gomez, Cynthia Smith, Massod Arshad, Gill Braulik, and Uzma Khan.

Summary: The entrapment of Indus River dolphins in irrigation canals in Pakistan is an imminent threat to this endangered species. While rescue operations occur, there is a critical need for veterinary monitoring and assessment to provide the animals a better chance of survival. There is also an urgent need to collect scientific data to help protect and conserve the species. The SMM Conservation Fund will allow our international, collaborative team to build local capacity by training Pakistani veterinary first responders. We will also collect essential scientific and health data to fill critical species-specific knowledge gaps. Thank you to the SMM for supporting this important work.

Find out more:

Instagram: @nmmfoundation, @wwfpak, @cynthia_smith_dvm, @forrestgomez

Facebook:, @WWFPak, @forrest.emorygomez

Title: Counting to protect: population estimation of a highly threatened subpopulation of river dolphin (genus Inia) in the Tocantins, the most impacted river by dams and land use changes in Brazil

PI: Miriam Marmontel

Summary:  Conduct survey to estimate the abundance of Araguaian boto along the Tocantins River, where segmentation by seven hydroelectric dams and rapid changes in land use is heavily impacting this dolphin population.

Final Week to Apply for the 2022 Louis M. Herman Research Scholarship

Louis M. Herman Research Scholarship 2022

This is the final week to apply for the 2022 cycle of the Louis M. Herman Research Scholarship

The Louis M. Herman Research Scholarship supports a research project that contributes to our understanding of either cetacean cognition and sensory perception (laboratory or field studies), or humpback whale behavioral ecology or communication. Work with other marine mammals that especially enhances our understanding of their cognitive abilities will also be considered. Eligible candidates include graduate students and those students who have completed their Masters or PhD within the past three years. The award is for a maximum of USD 5000 (~AUD6900; ~Mexican Peso 100,000; ~Fijian Dollar 10,000; ~EUR 4500). Details can also be found on the SMM website.

The application must include the following materials and be submitted by Monday, 7 February 2022, via the upload link here. (

Materials required

  • Cover Page (form)
    • Applicant Name
    • Email
    • Proposal Title
    • School/Affiliation
    • Degree (include date received or anticipated graduation date)
    • Total Project Budget
    • Project Location/Laboratory
    • Project Start Date
    • Project End Date
    • Project Abstract (300 word limit)


  • Project Abstract (300 word limit).  Briefly summarize your project.  (This should be the same as the language you enter in the form).


  • Project Proposal. Describe proposed project following the labelled sections below. Proposal should not exceed 3 pages in length (Times font, 12-point type, single-spaced, 1-in margins).
    • Background. Include overarching problem/challenge research will address and literature review
    • Project Importance and Relevance. What contributions or advancements will the proposed research make to marine mammal science?  In addition, what is the role of the proposed work in enhancing our understanding of cetacean (or other marine mammal) cognition and sensory perception or humpback whale behavioral ecology or communication. Please include how your project reflects or builds upon the research and interests of Dr. Herman and/or how your career has been influenced by his work.
    • Goals and Objectives. Statement of overall goals and measurable objectives
    • Methods. Include project design, location, field site or laboratory procedures, equipment, and analysis plan. If you are working in a laboratory setting, provide information on the research subjects, including their research experience (e.g., # of subjects, sex, age, years of research experience, etc.).
    • Outreach Plan. Please describe how you plan to share your research progress and findings (e.g., presentations, publications, social media, etc.)
    • Project Timeline. Include a time frame for all elements of the project.


  • References Cited.


  • Project Personnel. List each key person(s) conducting the research and their role (e.g., Project PI, Field Leader, etc., and make sure to list yourself).


  • Project Budget. A detailed budget, including itemized justification.  Please make sure to include:
    • Budget for the full project if it exceeds the award amount
    • How the award monies will be used specifically for the proposed project
    • Information on other funding applied for or already secured


  • Current Curriculum Vitae.


  • Letters of Reference. Two (2) professional letters of reference.
    • Letters should include the referee’s email address, phone number, and relationship to the applicant. For students, one of these letters should be from the student’s supervisor.


  • Research Permits. Verification of necessary research permits and/or authorizations.


  • Degree. Verification that the student is currently enrolled in a university degree program or proof of a graduate degree.

Evaluation Categories and Scoring

  • Importance and Relevance. Is this project likely to make a minor contribution/advancement to the relevant areas or a major one? How well does the project address the criteria of the award (above)? Is the proposal focused on a topic directly related to Dr. Herman’s research and findings and does the proposal specifically describe this relevance in detail?  (15 points)
  • Scientific Quality.  This criterion is meant to address whether the specific aspects of the proposal are appropriate to achieve the stated goals and objectives of the proposal.  Examples of project aspects to consider are the overall project design (is it well thought out and logical?),  field and/or lab methods (best practice? the right ones to use?), equipment and/or facilities or study site (right ones for the job?), study subjects if working in a laboratory setting (are these experienced or naive animals?), analyses (appropriate for the research design, rigorous, state-of-the art?) (15 points)
  • Quality of Writing and Presentation. Is the proposal well-written and clear? Are all required aspects of the proposal present and easy to understand? (5 points)
  • Likelihood of Success.  Considering Scientific Quality, applicant’s CV and other key personnel on the project, methods, timeline, funding, etc., how likely is it that the project will achieve its goals and desired outcomes. (5 points)
  • Outreach Plan.  Is the outreach plan appropriate and meaningful?  What kind of reach will these findings have and is it appropriate to the goals of the research?  (5 points)
  • Budget.  Is the budget appropriate and justified?  Does the funding play a meaningful role in the overall success of the project? (5 points)
  • References. Are the references strong, average, or below average in support of the applicant and the project? (5 points)

Award Recipient Notification
The award recipient will be notified by 16 April 2022 with an expectation that the awardee will submit to present their research project at the subsequent Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. We will award up to $500 to support travel costs contingent on an accepted submission and completed presentation.

Via email to the Awards and Scholarships Chair, Lindsay Porter (

SMM Seminar Editors’ Select Series: Friends Through Thick and Thin: How Injuries Disrupt Bottlenose Dolphin Associations

The SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series highlights the latest and most exciting marine mammal science published in the Marine Mammal Science Journal. The SMM created this series to give scientists and citizens around the world a chance to engage with marine mammal scientists, learn and ask questions. All are welcome.

Thursday, 16 December 2021 at 4 PM EDT (1 PM PDT / 9 PM UTC)
SMM Seminar Editors’ Select Series:
Friends Through Thick and Thin: How Injuries Disrupt Bottlenose Dolphin Associations

About this talk:
Social connectivity is important for measuring the fitness of common bottlenose dolphins because social relationships can enhance survival, reproduction and foraging success.  Human-related injuries such as boat strikes or fishing gear entanglements can potentially remove an individual from its association network and disrupt these relationships. Using data from the long-term resident dolphin community in Sarasota Bay, Florida, we investigated how these injuries affect the dolphins’ social associations by examining the differences in their social networks before and after injury. We found that while injured dolphins were found in groups of similar size to those prior to their injury, their number of preferential associations (i.e., their best friends) seemed to decline immediately after injury but were often regained within two years following injury. An individual’s strongest associations, namely those between mothers and calves and those between male alliance partners, remained stable before and after injury. Because dolphins rely on these relationships for survival, increased occurrence of injury from boating and fishing may put the animals at greater risk for long-term survival, including making them more vulnerable to predation.

About the presenter and co-authors:
Michelle Greenfield is a veterinary student at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (2023). She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University where she began her research with the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. Since then, Michelle has continued her studies of marine mammals working with organizations such as Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute and the United States Navy’s Marine Mammal Program. Her research interests focus on bottlenose dolphin social behavior and regenerative medicine in marine mammals. In addition to her research and clinical work, Michelle is the producer and host of Aquadocs Podcast, a top 50 life sciences podcast and the leading podcast on aquatic veterinary medicine (

Open access to all Marine Mammal Science papers is available to current SMM members. Open access to this article will be made temporarily available to the public during the week prior to and of the presentation.

Missed a presentation or want to share this series with a friend? All previous Editors’ Select  presentations are recorded and archived on our YouTube channel here:


SMM Editors’ Select Series: Patterns of mortality in endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales with Dr. Tamara McGuire

The SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series highlights the latest and most exciting marine mammal science published in the Marine Mammal Science Journal. The SMM created this series to give scientists and citizens around the world a chance to engage with marine mammal scientists, learn and ask questions. All are welcome.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021 at 2 PM AKST (3 PM PDT / 10 PM UTC)
SMM Seminar Editors’ Select Series:
Patterns of mortality in endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales:
Insights from pairing a long-term photo-identification study with stranding records with Dr. Tamara McGuire of the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project.

About this talk:
To understand why endangered beluga whales in Cook Inlet Alaska are not recovering despite over a decade of legal protections, we need to understand recent demographic patterns and sources of the population’s mortality. We used photographic records of individually identified live belugas collected over 13 years and combined them with stranding data from belugas found dead during the same period to assess mortality patterns.  Dead females and males were evenly represented. For both males and females, mortality rates were greatest in reproductive-aged adults, and there were no very-old adults. Live stranding was the most commonly assigned cause of death, but did not account for the majority of deaths. The cause(s) of most deaths and live strandings were undetermined. Our analysis advances the current understanding of mortality patterns in CIBWs, but linking a greater proportion of carcasses to photo-ID individuals and collecting more data from stranded carcasses would further improve our understanding of the causes of mortality in this population; we conclude with recommendations for achieving this.

About the presenter and co-authors:
Dr. Tamara McGuire is the Principal Investigator for the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID project. She has studied marine mammals for over 25 years and is interested in habitat use, life history, behavior, and the effects of human activities on endangered and threatened aquatic species and their habitats. She has studied marine mammals in Alaska since 2006, and before that on the Oregon Coast and in the Orinoco and Amazon River Basins. She has worked with Federal, Tribal, and State agencies, NGOs, and private industry. She led the Cook Inlet Beluga Recovery Team and is an advocate for collaborative research. Kim Shelden is a marine biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration based at the Marine Mammal Laboratory of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. She has worked for the Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program since 1990 studying species present seasonally and year-round in Alaska waters including Cook Inlet belugas, North Pacific right whales, bowhead whales, gray whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and harbor porpoise. Dr. Gina Himes Boor is Assistant Research Professor in the Ecology Department Montana State University. Her research focuses on developing models to better understand the demographic and spatial-use patterns that contribute to the decline and recovery of imperiled species. Amber Stephens has studied marine mammals since 1998, including beluga whales, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, narwhals, and Pacific walrus.  A CI on the CIBW Photo-ID Project, her responsibilities include cataloging, field work, public outreach, and website management. John McClung joined the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project in 2017 and has over ten years of photo-identification experience of cetaceans including humpback whales, melon-headed whales, and belugas. Prior to receiving his MS in wildlife science from Oregon State University, he served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force. Christopher Garner is a biologist for the Department of Defense at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.  He has studied beluga and harbor porpoise in upper Cook Inlet since 2001 with emphasis on beluga ecology within rivers emptying into a hypertidal region as well as the effects of military activity on marine mammals and their prey. Dr. Carrie Goertz is the Director of Animal Health at the Alaska SeaLife Center where she oversees veterinary care for animals in the aquarium and out in the field, working with sea birds, fish, invertebrates, sea otters, seals, sea lions, beluga, and other marine animals. Dr. Kathy Burek Huntington has been the pathologist for the Alaska stranding program and in particular for the Cook Inlet belugas for 23 years and works collaboratively with the rest of the stranding network throughout Alaska. She is particularly interested in emerging pathogens, harmful algal bloom toxins, pathology, the intersections of these topics with climate change, and mentoring young scientists in pathology. Dr. Greg O’Corry-Crowe is a behavioral ecologist and geneticist focused on marine mammals and conservation. He runs the Wildlife Evolution and Behavior (WEB) program at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and is a research professor at Florida Atlantic University. Bruce Wright is an ecologist with the Knik Tribe whose work focuses on Alaska marine and terrestrial top predators.

Open access to all Marine Mammal Science papers is available to current SMM members. Open access to this article will be made temporarily available to the public during the week prior to and of the presentation.

Missed a presentation or want to share this series with a friend? All previous Editors’ Select  presentations are recorded and archived on our YouTube channel here:

Student Conference on Conservation Science-New York (ONLINE) October 5-8, 2021

As a part of the only international series of conservation conferences featuring students, SCCS-NY provides opportunities for emerging scientists to professionally network, gain experience, and present and get feedback on their work. Interactions with peers as well as leaders in science, policy, and management will encourage collaborations, inspire further research, and create lasting professional connections.

Registration fee: $50

For more details go to:

The 2021 Conservation marketing and engagement conference (ONLINE) 27-30 October 2021

Conference theme: Changing behavior in a changing climate

What is Conservation Marketing? 

We define conservation marketing as ‘the ethical application of marketing strategies concepts and techniques to influence attitudes, perceptions and behaviours of individuals, and ultimately societies, with the objective of advancing conservation goals.’

Now more than ever the field of conservation needs to respond to wicked problems – like climate change – that are driving the degradation of our natural and social worlds. Conservation marketing assumes that conservation behaviors operate in a complex environment that includes multiple competing factors, such as social norms, infrastructural barriers, and personal identity to name a few. The approach of conservation marketing is grounded in understanding one’s target audience in order to create sustainable and meaningful change.

Marketing techniques are often used to sell a commercial product, but conservation marketing applies these same or similar techniques to encourage pro-conservation behavior change. Insights from conservation marketing can help organizations design targeted outreach campaigns and can help practitioners understand how to fundraise for less charismatic species or how to select a celebrity spokesperson for their cause.

For more details on the conference please visit:

Registration fee: $60


Register here:

Dr. John Wang Receives the 2021 Society for Marine Mammalogy’s Conservation Merit Prize

Cetacean biologist heralded for over 30 years of research and conservation efforts.

Every two years in the lead up to the Society for Marine Mammalogy conference, our Conservation Committee considers potential awardees for the Conservation Merit Prize. The Conservation Merit Prize is public recognition given to a person, team, or organization contributing toward solving a pressing conservation problem for marine mammals, either ongoing or resulting in a conservation success. The prize is only given when the Conservation Committee finds a case of exceptional merit and may not be awarded at every biennial.

After reviewing an impressive slate of nominees, the Society Conservation Committee and Board selected Dr. John Wang as this year’s recipient.

John Y. Wang, Ph.D.
2021 SMM Conservation Merit Prize Winner
• CetAsia Research Group Ltd – Chief Biologist
• Trent University – Professor, Department of Biology
• National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium of Taiwan – Adjunct Researcher

John’s work started in the chilly waters of Canada’s Bay of Fundy in the late 1980’s. Donning a wetsuit and snorkeling equipment, John jumped into herring weirs, a fixed fishing trap, to help fishermen release harbor porpoise. The fishermen used seine nets to remove herring that had aggregated in the weirs and porpoise would become trapped in the nets as they were hauled in. That work quickly pivoted to focusing on harbor porpoise bycatch in the gillnet fishery and lead Dr. Wang to start the first groundfish gillnet observer program in Canada.

In the mid-1990’s the global issue of cetacean bycatch pulled John beyond the borders of Canada to the other side of the planet when he started working on understanding cetacean fauna and bycatch throughout Taiwan. Early investigations consisted of visiting fishing ports around the country, recording carcasses, and conducting interviews to understand local fisheries. He attended stranding events and visited various scientific and academic institutions to examine their specimen collections. These efforts resulted in one clear conclusion – bycatch was a significant conservation issue for cetaceans in Taiwan. Specifically, large-mesh pelagic driftnets were clearly a serious problem as well as smaller-scale gillnet fisheries throughout Taiwan with a total annual cetacean bycatch in the thousands to tens of thousands per year for Taiwanese fisheries. His path for cetacean conservation in Taiwan was set.

In 2002, John was encouraged by a good friend and colleague to conduct exploratory surveys in the inshore waters along the heavily-industrialized and developed coast of western Taiwan. It was during these surveys that the endemic and highly restricted Taiwanese white (or humpback) dolphin subspecies was discovered. Given the status of the subspecies and the many threats it faced, John decided to put the driftnet bycatch issue on the backburner as urgent attention and focus on the Taiwanese humpback dolphin was the priority. For more information about the Taiwaianese humpback dolphins, threats and recovery actions please visit the IUCN Red List.

To this day, conservation of the Taiwanese humpback dolphin still occupies most of John’s attention. However, his expertise and decades of experience working with small cetaceans and local communities/fisheries has proven valuable to other ongoing bycatch reduction and other conservation efforts around the globe including finless porpoise bycatch in several areas in east Asia, underwater noise and cetaceans, Indo-Pacific humpback conservation in other parts of east Asia and river dolphins in Brazil.

Dr. Wang has made a career out of working on challenging conservation issues, many of which are ongoing – taking years or decades to affect change. We asked John why he does his work and what kept him motivated to continue his efforts all these years. His response spoke of a deeply seated belief that scientists have a duty to use their abilities to better the natural world.

“ Other living things have no “voices” (or votes) to choose not to be exploited and to be driven to extinction so we should lend them our voices. The voices of scientists are often “louder” and will be given more attention by others. Although the main responsibility of a scientist is to conduct solid, objective research to better our knowledge of the universe, being a scientist is a small subset of the responsibilities of being human. Humans have a much larger responsibility to not stay quiet and voiceless when we possess specialized/privileged knowledge of conservation issues (some of us may be the only people who know of some issues) and this responsibility supersedes those of being scientists. It is clear that there is no reason why scientists cannot advocate for conservation and environment issues while continuing to fulfill his/her role as a scientist and maintain a high level of credibility and scientific integrity.”

As far as what motivates him, it is about knowing he is doing what he believes is right.

“Working on conservation issues is difficult because there is often strong opposition, the chance of failure is high and rewards or accolades are few (if any). But it’s the right thing to do and being self-satisfied with doing the right thing is the strongest motivation.”

The Conservation Merit Prize includes travel to the award presentation at the Biennial Conference. Conservation Merit Prize nominees may be nominated at any time for the next upcoming Biennial Conference by any active SMM member and the SMM Conservation Committee selects award recipient(s) with the approval of the Board of Governors.