Category Archives: President’s Blog

Last chance to vote on proposed SMM bylaws, constitution and membership structure changes

Dear Members,

This is your final reminder to vote on several important pieces of Society business. There are many changes to our governing documents, including term limits, changing membership types, approving a stipend for our journal editor and more. It is also time to vote for or against a change in our membership dues structure and rates. We have been discussing this as a community since December but for a refresher, you can read about these changes in this news item on our website. The ballot will be open for 1 more week. We hope that all members will take part in shaping the future of the Society.

Here is the link to the ballot: https://www.marinemammalscience.org/for-members/2022-members-ballot/

The ballot will close at 3:00 PM EST on Monday, 11 April 2022.

Best wishes,
Emer Rogan
Nominations and Elections Committee Chair

Vote on proposed SMM bylaws, constitution and membership structure changes

Dear Members,

Our 2022 ballot is now live on our website. All current members should log in and vote on several important pieces of Society business. There are many changes to our governing documents, including term limits, changing membership types, approving a stipend for our journal editor and more. It is also time to vote for or against a change in our membership dues structure and rates. We have been discussing this as a community since December but for a refresher, you can read about these changes in this news item on our website. The ballot will be open for 4 weeks. We hope that all members will take part in shaping the future of the Society.

Here is the link to the ballot: https://www.marinemammalscience.org/for-members/2022-members-ballot/

The ballot will close at 3:00 PM EST on Monday, 11 April 2022.

Best wishes,
Emer Rogan
Nominations and Elections Committee Chair

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): https://www.ammco.org/  and https://www.facebook.com/ammco.org/  and https://twitter.com/AMMCO_SIREN

Consortium for the Conservation of the Atlantic Humpback Dolphin (CCAHD): https://www.sousateuszii.org/   and https://www.facebook.com/sousateuszii  and  https://twitter.com/sousateuszii

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: http://www.wwf.org.kh

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: https://www.facebook.com/MyanmarCoastalConservationLab/

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:

https://www.wwfpak.org/our_work_/wildlife_2/indus_dolphin/

https://www.nmmf.org/marine-mammal/south-asian-river-dolphin/

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

Facebook: @nmmf.org, @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.

Recording of February 2, 2022 Inter-Conference Members’ Meeting

Aloha Everyone.

Thanks to all of our members that were able to join us for the live portion of the member’s meeting.  For those of you that were unable to make it you can know watch the meeting on demand at the link below.  The topics on the agenda were the following:

Welcome and 2021 Year in Review
Budget Update
Conservation Fund Awards Announcement
Update from the Editor
Update from D&I
2022 Conference Updates
Changes to Governing Documents and Dues
Announcement of the Norris Award Winner
SMM Board Plans for 2022
Open Floor for Discussion

If you have any questions or business you want to recommend for the Board you can post it in the comments below or send it to the President, appropriate officer or committee chair.

 

Members’ Meeting Reminder: February 2, 2022 at 18:00 GMT

Aloha SMM Members-

This is a reminder that we will be hosting our Members’ Meeting online next week. We will give an update on our budget, explain some changes to our governing documents that will be on the March ballot, announce the winners for our inaugural Conservation Fund grants, and more.  We will also share some of our priorities for the coming year and get your input on where the SMM Board and Committees would focus their effort.  This will be a great opportunity to learn how you can get involved in shaping our Society.

Date:  February 2nd
Time:  18:00 GMT

Please register by following this link.

If you are unable to attend due to scheduling conflict or timezone issues you can watch the replay within 24 hrs.  Please share any questions or comments to president@marinemammalscience.org

Looking forward to seeing many of you online.

Cheers,
Charles

SMM Inter-Conference Members Meeting – February 2nd 1800 GMT

Aloha and Happy New Year SMM Members-

The delay of the conference means we are overdue for an update to our members.  We would like to kick off the new year with an inter-conference meeting to give an update on our budget, explain some changes to our governing documents that will be on the March ballot, announce the winners for our inaugural Conservation Fund grants, and more.  We will also share some of our priorities for the coming year and get your input on where the SMM Board and Committees would focus their effort.  This will be a great opportunity to learn how you can get involved in shaping our Society.

Date:  February 2nd
Time:  18:00 GMT

Please register by following this link .

If you are unable to attend due to scheduling conflict or timezone issues you can watch the replay within 24 hrs.  Please share any questions or comments to president@marinemammalscience.org

Looking forward to seeing many of you online.  I hope you all have a happy, safe, and successful 2022.

Cheers,
Charles

Welcome to our new Ethics Committee Chair,  Dr. Karen Stockin and Aloha to Dr. Paul Nachtigall

Aloha,

Dr. Paul Nachtigall will be stepping down after five years of guiding the SMM Ethics Committee.  His legacy of commitment to the SMM is worth mentioning again.  He presented his doctoral work at Ken Norris’ meeting in Santa Cruz in 1975, setting in motion  his strong involvement at the founding meeting in San Francisco in 1981. He has been to all but one biennial meeting and led our Society as President. In Paul’s own words, “SMM has been my home scientific society though I have been active in others. I am retired now, 75 years old, and have been Ethics Chair for over six years. I have recently worked with an outstanding group of people on the Ethics committee and with three dedicated and wonderful boards.” Paul has given much to the Society over these many decades and for that, we should all be grateful.  

At the same time as announcing Paul’s departure we solicited expressions of interest from any member interested in taking over the role of Ethics Committee Chair. Thank you to those of you who reached out with interest. It was a small but esteemed group of colleagues willing to take on this important responsibility. After discussion and deliberation we selected Dr. Karen Stockin for the position. Many of you are familiar with Karen, but if you are not, she has extensive experience in marine mammal science, ethics and welfare. Karen is based at New Zealand’s Massey University where she is the leader of the Cetacean Ecology Research Group. Her research sits at the nexus of marine biology, behavioural ecology, vet pathology and animal welfare science with a particular focus on anthropogenic impacts which affect individuals as well as populations. These impacts include toxicology, vessel impacts (direct/indirect) and human-wildlife interactions. She is currently a Rutherford Discovery Fellow, which is supporting her exciting work assessing how AI and Animal Welfare Science can increase the effectiveness of human intervention efforts during mass stranding events. Her other experience includes serving as the inaugural Strandings Coordinator (2018-2020) for the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and she is currently a specialist on the IWC Strandings Initiative Expert Panel.  We are very excited to welcome her to the Board of Governors and see where she leads the Society on the many complex ethics and welfare discussions and issues within our field.  

Welcome Karen and mahalo and aloha Paul.

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.

Webinar on Equity in Internships Recording Now Available

Thank you to all who joined us for our first webinar on equity in internships, hosted by SMM and WDC. Special thanks to our panelists, who shared their perspectives as program leaders and former interns and to our audience for your excellent, thoughtful questions and participation. We look forward to hosting the next webinar in our Diversity and Inclusion Series in September.

Here is a recording of the webinar, in case you missed it, would like to rewatch or share.

Reminder to Vote for SMM’s Honorary Member Nominees by 2 September 2021

Dear Members,

This is your reminder to vote for SMM’s Honorary Member nominees by 2 September 2021.

We are pleased to present two new nominees to become Honorary Members for you to vote on. An Honorary Member is a member recognized for distinguished service to the field of marine mammalogy, as recommended unanimously by the Board of Governors, and elected by two-thirds of the voting members. Honorary Members have all the privileges of full members but are exempt from dues.

Here is the link to the ballot: https://www.marinemammalscience.org/for-members/2021-members-ballot/

The ballot will close at 3:00 PM EST on 2 September 2021.

Best wishes,
Emer Rogan
Nominations and Elections Committee Chair