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.
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.
For all questions about the fund and application process, please contact:
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 opens on 1 June 2021. Applications will be accepted during the entire month of June. 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.
3. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
For all other questions about the grants, please contact:
Laura J. May-Collado
Committee of Scientific Advisors
Society for Marine Mammalogy
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: email@example.com.
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.
The Society for Marine Mammalogy’s Board of Governors is excited to welcome Dr. Eduardo Secchi to the Board as the newly appointed chair of the SMM’s Conservation Committee. Dr. Secchi will be taking over from Dr. Barb Taylor who has overseen the SMM’s conservation actions since the committee’s creation.
Dr. Secchi has a long history in marine mammal science and conservation. He graduated in Oceanography at the Federal University of Rio Grande (FURG) in 1991. He did his Masters in Biological Oceanography (FURG, 1999) and PhD in Zoology (University of Otago, New Zealand, 2006). After completing his dissertation he became the Associate Professor in the Oceanography Institute at FURG to lead the Marine Megafauna Ecology and Conservation Laboratory with a primary focus on the ecology and conservation of marine mammals and turtles. Dr. Secchi is now the Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at FURG.
His commitment to marine mammal conservation goes beyond that of just working with students and collaborators. He is a member of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group/Species Survival Commission and acts as the advisor to the Brazilian Ministry of Environment and Ministry of External Affairs on International Commissions such as the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the Committee for Environmental Protection of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (CEP/ATCM), and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
Each candidate for the position provided a brief statement of their vison for the Conservation Committee and the SMM, more generally. Dr. Secchi’s hopes are that the SMM will continue on its path to become a global reference on the conservation of marine mammals and invest in the development and engagement of a new generation of scientists. The SMM’s efforts must turn towards actions to reverse declines observed in many species, especially in developing nations. He especially emphasized that, “… conservation must always take into account social vulnerability of the human communities sharing resources with marine mammals.”
As we welcome Dr. Secchi, we must simultaneously thank Dr. Taylor for her many years of work leading the Conservation Committee. She nurtured a nascent committee and built a team of engaged marine mammal conservation scientists to help advise the SMM on species in crises around the globe. There are few marine mammal conservation issues that Dr. Taylor has not been involved with in some capacity and she is committed to learn from each experience to build a stronger foundation for conservation in the future. This is exemplified in her recent efforts, with a team of collaborators, to help fight future cetacean extinctions through the use of ex situ options for cetacean conservation.
Few in our field have the breadth of marine mammal conservation experience as Dr. Taylor and we are thankful for her continued commitment to the SMM. While she is stepping down as chair of the committee, she will be remaining with the group and sharing her experience with the team and the SMM Board of Governors.
Thank you Barb and welcome and good luck Edu!
To contact the SMM Conservation committee please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on the links below if you are interested in reading some of Dr. Secchi’s and collaborators’ more recent publications in Marine Mammal Science.
The SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series highlights the latest and most exciting marine mammal science published in the Marine Mammal Science Journal. This is your chance to engage with marine mammal scientists, learn and ask questions from anywhere in the world. All are welcome.
Re-emergence of Guadalupe fur seals in Oregon and Washington with Dr. Erin D’Agnese
11 February 2021 at 4 PM Pacific Time (12 AM UTC)
About this talk:
This talk discusses the health risks facing Guadalupe fur seals (Arctocephalus phillippii townsendi; GFS) as they re-emerge in their historic, pre-sealing, migration range. The continued presence of the species in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, was largely represented by juvenile animals and was seasonally driven. Their stranding numbers were related to the seasonal upwelling present in the area during summer months. Detailed necropsies, histopathology (n=93) and epidemiological analysis found three main causes of death (COD): emaciation (44%), trauma (29%), and infectious disease (19%) and the factors associated with overall strandings and emaciation. Trauma included many cases found associated with fisheries interactions and clustered near the mouth of the Columbia River where high levels of commercial fishing occurs. Re-emergence of GFSs is likely due to conservation efforts, which have been critical for species recovery in the region, continued monitoring is needed as this vulnerable species continues to rebound and faces pressures of increased fisheries in the region.
About the Presenter:
Dr. Erin D’Agnese is a Postdoctoral scholar at University of Washington, with a specialty in One Health research, specifically using molecular methods for wildlife health and conservation.
The SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series highlights the latest and most exciting marine mammal science published in the Marine Mammal Science Journal. This is your chance to engage with marine mammal scientists, learn and ask questions from anywhere in the world. Attendance is free, registration is required and all are welcome.
Sex Ratios in Blue Whales from Conception Onward with Dr. Trevor Branch
January 14, 2021 05:00 PM in Pacific Time (1:00 AM UTC)
About this talk:
Deviations from equal sex ratios in mammals can reveal insights into sex‐specific growth, survival, movements, and behavior. In the paper highlighted during this talk, Dr. Trevor Branch assessed blue whale sex ratios from conception to birth using whaling records. In this 1-hour talk and Q&A session, Branch discussed his research and shared assessments on the implications of blue whale sex ratios and deviations.
About the presenter:
Trevor Branch, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. Branch and his lab members focus on solving biological problems through data synthesis and mathematical models and work on a variety of fishery, marine mammal and marine research projects.
About this presentation:
An interesting pattern of dead whales known to be killed by blunt trauma is that not all of them have broken bones. So if lethal collisions do not need to generate enough force per unit area (i.e. stress) to break bones, we wondered what a lethal amount of stress might be. We used simple models that incorporated whale biology, Newtonian physics and real-life observations to identify this amount of stress and it turns out many of the vessels on the ocean, large and small, can lethally injure large whales. Find out more about this study and get your questions answered during this 1-hour presentation followed by a Q&A session.
Thursday, 10 December, 2020
7:00 PM – 8:15 PM Atlantic Time (11 PM UTC)
Dr. Sean Brillant presented this work on behalf of his co-authors.
About the presenter:
Sean Brillant is the Senior Conservation Biologist for Marine Programs at the Canadian Wildlife Federation. He is a marine biologist with a PhD in experimental ecology and a masters in pollution ecology. Since 1993, Sean has collaborated with wide ranges of resource users, landowners, governments, NGOs, and scientists to solve a variety of environmental issues. In 2007, Sean began working to reduce harmful interactions between human activities and marine wildlife, focusing particularly on entanglements of and ship strikes on whales. Sean is an active member of many local, national, and international initiatives working on marine conservation and education and is based at Dalhousie University in Halifax Nova Scotia, where he is an Adjunct with the Department of Oceanography. Originally from Saint John NB, Sean spent his school years exploring, studying, fishing, and freezing in the Bay of Fundy.
In March 2020, SMM President, D. Ann Pabst signed an SMM Presidential Letter to attract the attention of the Government of Mozambique on the high risks involved in letting the South African SASOL oil giant conduct seismic explorations in core habitat of the last healthy population of dugongs in Africa.
Today South African petroleum giant, SASOL, announced that they have chosen to relinquish Blocks 16 & 19 (the area just to the north of the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park in southern Mozambique) in their entirety to the Government of Mozambique and that the Mozambican authorities have been notified of this decision.
SASOL acknowledged all the comments received during the pre-feasibility phase of the EIA process from scientists, NGOs, tourism operators, fishers, local community members, and international authorities. They said they valued the input provided by these stakeholders.
They stated that they understood and appreciated the environmental sensitivity of the area in question and maintained that sustainability is integral to how SASOL conducts business.
This is encouraging not only for the dugongs – long may they live – but also because it shows that we must never give up.
See the Presidential Letter here:
See Official Press Release here:
The Committee completed its annual review of the SMM list of accepted marine mammal species and subspecies in May 2020. A new species has been added to the list — Sato’s beaked whale, Berardius minimus Yamada, Kitamura and Matsuishi, 2019. This species is found in the North Pacific Ocean. It is smaller and darker in coloration than Baird’s beaked whale, B. bairdii, a closely related species of Berardius that is also found in the North Pacific. In addition to the morphological differences, mitochondrial DNA data also separate Sato’s beaked whale from the other beaked whale species.
The Committee has also recognized the North Pacific population of fin whales as a separate subspecies, Balaenoptera physalus velifera Cope in Scammon, 1869. Fin whales in the North Pacific have historically been included in the broadly distributed Northern Hemisphere subspecies B. p. physalus. A new genetic study examining both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA found that North Pacific fin whales are diagnosably different from those in the North Atlantic and the Southern Hemisphere, and are likely on a separate evolutionary trajectory. The subspecies name velifera is Latin for sail-bearing and may refer to the large falcate dorsal fin.
The publications describing these new taxa are:
Archer FI, Robert L. Brownell J, Hancock-Hanser B, Morin P, Robertson K, Sherman K, Calambokidis J, R JU, Rosel P, Mizroch S, Panigada S, Taylor B (2019) Subspecies of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus Linnaeus, 1758): Taxonomic implications of genetics. J Mammal 100:1653–1670
Yamada TK, Kitamura S, Abe S, Tajima Y, Matsuda A, Mead JG, Matsuishi TF (2019) Description of a new species of beaked whale (Berardius) found in the North Pacific. Scientific Reports 9:1-14