Category Archives: Funding and Awards

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.

SMM Conservation Fund Now Accepting Proposals

The Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) is now accepting proposals for projects under its new Conservation Fund. Proposals for up to US$25K can be submitted between now and 31 July 2021. Proposals should be focused on projects that can catalyze real conservation action for the world’s most endangered marine mammal species. Details on the application process can be found here. Proposals will be judged by the SMM Conservation Committee and Committee of Scientific Advisors and awards will be announced at the SMM member’s meeting at the Marine Mammal Conference in December.

Dr. Danielle Kreb On Winning the SMM Conservation Merit Prize

Thank you for submitting your inspiring nominations for the 2021 SMM Conservation Merit Prize winner. The Conservation Committee is now reviewing all nominations. 

Meanwhile, here is a video from the 2019 SMM Conservation Merit Prize winner, Dr. Danielle Kreb, discussing how much receiving the prize has meant to her work and giving us a peek into her impactful conservation efforts in Indonesia. 

Reminder to Submit Small Grants In Aid of Research Applications by June 30

The Society for Marine Mammalogy would like to inform eligible members (see below) that this year’s Small Grants in Aid of Research application window closes on 30 June 2021. The Committee of Scientific Advisors will review applications and make recommendations on funding with decisions announced in early September 2021. The awards are up to US $2,000. Up to 25% of the budget may be used as stipend. All three of the following eligibility requirements must be met:

  1. Be a member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy.
  2. Be a national of any country not on this Excluded Country List: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.

Preference is given to early career researchers such as students and researchers with less than 5 years post-doctoral experience.

  1. Be conducting research in a country not on the above Excluded Country List.

The Small Grant web page provides full information, links to past successful applications, a list of recipients from prior years and their completed project reports, and a link to the application itself. Please be mindful of the word limits in the various sections of the application.

Last year 17 of 55 applicants from 20 counties received funding ranging from $793 to $2,000 USD.

For technical questions regarding the online application, please email the Society webmaster at admin@marinemammalscience.org

For all other questions about the grants, please contact:

Laura J. May-Collado
Chair
Committee of Scientific Advisors
Society for Marine Mammalogy
science@marinemammalscience.org

 

Brazilian Marine Mammalogist, Pedro Fruet, Awarded Whitley Award

This year, the Whitley Award was granted to six researchers and conservationists in the Southern Hemisphere, among them Pedro Fruet, a Brazilian marine mammalogist who has been studying the Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin since 2000. Pedro completed his graduate studies (MSc and PhD – the latter in cotutele with Flinders University, Australia) in the Biological Oceanography Graduate Program at the Federal University of Rio Grande-FURG, in southern Brazil. As a graduate student and pos-doctoral fellow at FURG, Pedro and colleagues increased considerably the understanding of the ecology and conservation needs of this subspecies of bottlenose dolphins, including taxonomy, population genetics, population structure, estimation of population-specific parameters, and viability analysis. This achievement is a result of the long-standing partnership between Kaosa (an NGO funded by Pedro and colleagues in 2007), the Oceanographic Museum “Prof. Eliezer C. Rios” and the Ecology and Conservation of Marine Megafauna Laboratory (Ecomega) at FURG, with the continued financial support of Yaqu Pacha, a German NGO focused on the conservation of Aquatic Mammals in South America. The project under the scope of the Whitley Award aims to reduce bycatch in fishing gear, raise awareness about this subspecies and strengthen the community’s connection to their marine environment.

SMM Conservation Fund to Open for Submissions on July 1, 2021

The Society for Marine Mammalogy is pleased to inform our membership that the inaugural SMM Conservation Fund application window will open on 1 July 2021. Awards may be for up to US $25,000, and a total of US $50,000 is available during this preliminary call for submissions.

Applications will be accepted during the entire month of July. The Committee of Scientific Advisors and the Conservation Committee will review applications and will announce the recipients at the Biennial Conference in December 2021.

Full eligibility requirements and application instructions are available here.

For all questions about the fund and application process, please contact:

Jay Barlow
SMM Conservation Fund Coordinator
Society for Marine Mammalogy
conservationfund@marinemammalscience.org

SMM Conservation Merit Prize Is Accepting Nominations through June 15, 2021

The SMM Conservation Committee awards a special Conservation Merit Prize at the Biennial Conference. 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.

Previous recipients: include

2019: Dr. Danielle Kreb for her over 20 years of conservation efforts on behalf of the critically endangered Mahakam River population of Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, and for her engagement of local communities in that critical work.

2017: Dr. Alexandros Karamanlidis for his team’s work in preventing the extinction of the Mediterranean monk seal.

2015: Mexican officials including President Enrique Peña Nieto, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Rafael Pacchiano, top Mexican biologists, economists and fishermen for their work to save the critically endangered vaquita.

About eligibility, nominations and the review process:
The Prize includes travel to the award presentation at the Biennial Conference, including two night’s lodging. Any active SMM member may propose recipients. The Prize is only given when the Conservation Committee finds a case of exceptional merit and may not be awarded at every biennial. Choice of the person or team will be by the Conservation Committee and approved by the Board.

To nominate a person or group for this prize, please send a one-paragraph description including the name of the nominated individual or group and their qualifications (self nominations welcome) to: conservation@marinemammalscience.org.

The Conservation Committee will select a short list of nominees and follow up with nominators to request the completion of a more comprehensive application after the submission deadline of June 15, 2021.

Congratulations to our Inaugural Group of Society for Marine Mammalogy Fellows

Two years ago, the members of the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) voted to establish a Fellows membership category. This “Fellow” designation is for  members who are  recognized by the Society and its membership as having “rendered conspicuous service or made truly notable contributions to the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of marine mammal science or the fostering of its practical applications through conservation of marine mammals.” 

Some of our members make great contributions conducting or supporting good science.  Others are amazing educators and communicators helping to foster a better understanding and appreciation of marine mammal science and conservation.  Some may be champions of conservation.  They may be at any stage of their career and from anywhere in the world.  What links them is excellence in what they do, impact to our field, and being a member of our SMM family.  They are nominated by their colleagues and reviewed by their peers.

We have completed the first round of selections for our inaugural class of Fellows but before I announce them, I would like to thank the hard work by all involved in the conception, development and implementation of this program.  It took many hands to make this happen but I would like to call out two people in particular. Drs. Cecile Vincent and Doug Wartzok did an enormous amount of work behind the scenes, and sometimes in front of a camera (thank you Doug!). I also want to thank the nominators and writers of recommendation letters who invested the effort to honor their colleagues and friends.

Now, it is my great pleasure to welcome our first class of SMM Fellows.  The 2021 SMM Fellows Are (alphabetical order by last name):

Dr. Dan Costa: For pioneering work in field physiology, biologging development, and global syntheses, and for training the next generation of marine mammalogists.

Dr. Enrique “Kike” Crespo: For contributions to the knowledge and conservation of the marine mammals of the Patagonian Shelf.

Dr. Ailsa Hall: For being a leader and role model for Women-in-STEM, for contributions to understanding disease pathology and spread in marine mammals.

Dr. Janet Mann: For efforts to improve the participation of women in marine mammal research and contributions to longitudinal studies of dolphin behavior.

Dr. Joy Reidenberg: For cetacean sound production research, and teaching the world about marine mammal anatomy through television documentaries.

Suzanne Yin: For the consistent collection of high quality cetacean abundance and behavioral data.

Congratulations to you all for this well-deserved honor.  Our new Fellows will comprise the next Fellows committee and will help shepherd the next round of nominees.  For those interested, we will be announcing our next call for Fellows nominations later this year and we hope to see packages that represent expertise from all corners our of community!

Reminder to submit your nominations for the inaugural class of SMM Fellows

A reminder that the SMM Fellows Program is now accepting nominations for its inaugural year. From our Constitution, a Fellow is a member who is being recognized by the Society and its membership as having “rendered conspicuous service or made truly notable contributions to the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of marine mammal science or the fostering of its practical applications through conservation of marine mammals”. A nomination for advancement to Fellow is appropriate for any current Full member of the SMM after that individual has been a Full member for a minimum of five years.

If you are a current SMM member, you may nominate an eligible SMM member as a Fellow. We ask that you submit a complete dossier, described in detail below, to the Fellows Nomination web page by 18 November 2020. The dossier must be uploaded to the Fellows Nomination web page as a single .pdf document.

If you have any questions about the nomination process, please reach out to the Co-Chairs of the Fellows Committee, our Members-at-Large:

Cecile Vincent and Cindy Peter (fellows@marinemammalscience.org)

For any technical questions regarding the online application, please email admin@marinemammalscience.org.

Thank you in advance for your nominations!

Best regards,

Cecile Vincent and Cindy Peter