Category Archives: Society News

SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series: Re-emergence of Guadalupe fur seals in Oregon and Washington

Join us on 11 February 2021 at 4 PM Pacific Time (12 AM UTC) for the next SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series: Re-emergence of Guadalupe fur seals in Oregon and Washington

Free to attend
Registration required. (Register here.)
Presented online on Zoom

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.

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.

SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series: Sex Ratios in Blue Whales

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.

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 will discuss his research and share assessments on the implications of blue whale sex ratios and deviations.

January 14, 2021 05:00 PM in Pacific Time (1:00 AM UTC)

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.

Holiday Greetings and An Important Ask from SMM President, Charles Littnan

2020 has been a testing year for all of us. It has also been hard for non-profits, such as the Society for Marine Mammalogy, as charitable donations have declined while the world navigates financial uncertainty.  These donations fund some of our most vital functions like supporting student travel, small grants in aid of research, and our many awards.   But if there is one thing that we have learned this year, it is the importance of togetherness and giving in face of adversity.  To our members from the United States,  you have a unique opportunity to support our global marine mammal community.

We want to take a moment to inform you about Section 2104 of the CARES Act, which allows donors to deduct cash donations up to $300 without needing to itemize deductions for the 2020 tax year. If you are interested in supporting the SMM through a charitable donation, we the SMM Board and all the members you help, would be incredibly grateful.  Please review the linked article that outlines a 100% tax benefit for those donating prior to year’s end. It probably goes without saying but I am required to mention – I am not qualified to give tax advice. Please consult tax professionals for more details.

Help support our awards, grants and programs with a tax-deductible donation toward the program of your choice here.

 

 

SMM Seminars: Editors’ Select Series – Assessing the lethality of ship strikes on whales using simple biophysical models

A North Atlantic right whale rests at the ocean’s surface. With an estimated 100 reproductive females remaining, the species could be unable to reproduce naturally in 20 years.

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.

Unpaid Positions in Science Discussion Panel Recording

Dear Colleagues,

We want to reach to thank all who joined us on November 25, 2020 for our forum on unpaid positions. In particular we would like to thank our panelists, Drs. Auriel Fournier, Diane Gendron, Tara Cox, and Cindy Peter, who took the time to share their experiences and important perspectives. We’ve had a lot of feedback that these were greatly appreciated and helpful in framing our discussion. For those of you who missed it, a recording of the live event is available here:

We covered a lot of ground during the event, and for that we found the discussion to be very productive. However, there were also many comments made and questions posed that we just did not have the time to address. We are in the process of collating those and following up on them. We hope to share these and continue the conversation over the next 4-6 weeks. We welcome any other input members of the community may have in the interim.

Thank you for being a part of this important conversation.

Eric Archer and Tara Cox
Co-Chairs, Ad hoc Committee of Diversity and Inclusion
Society for Marine Mammalogy
diversity@marinemammalscience.org

Editors’ Select Series Presentation: “Tiger Stripes” on Estuarine Dolphins? by Elizabeth Titcomb

  

We are pleased to present the inaugural edition of the the SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series. This 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.

Guest, Elizabeth Titcomb of Dolphin Census, presents: “Tiger stripes” on estuarine dolphins?

Thursday, 12 November 12, 2020
7:00 PM – 8:15 PM Eastern Standard Time

About this presentation:
In a long-term photo-identification study on dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon found unusual skin markings that had never-before been reported in cetaceans. The markings resembled parallel linear scars and were predominantly seen in females that had been pregnant, leading us to wonder if they were related to stretch marks seen in other mammals. At the moment, the exact cause for the skin markings is unknown.

Presented by Elizabeth Titcomb of Dolphin Census, find out more about this new mystery and the research that led up to it.

Discussion Panel on Unpaid Positions in Science

Dear Colleagues,

We all agree that our marine mammal community, and science in general, benefits from increased diversity. We all agree that barriers to diversity and inclusiveness, where they exist, should be dismantled.

In July 2020, the SMM received a petition requesting that the Society no longer post unpaid positions on our job board, as they contribute to inequity. This petition created an opportunity for important dialogue and consideration of the issue to occur. One of the most positive actions we can take is to facilitate this dialog further and include our membership to the greatest extent possible. To that end, we host an online forum with a variety of participants and perspectives on this issue on 25 November 2020 at 8 PM EST. This will be a moderated online discussion that will be archived for future watching.

Over the past few months, our colleagues in North America, South America, Asia and Europe have gathered insights and information from around the globe regarding the subject of unpaid positions in marine mammal science and how they help and hinder equity in the field. During this 1-hour panel, followed by a Q&A session, our moderators and panelists will share their collective insights and we will continue this discussion in a format designed to be accessible to our diverse global community. Panelists include: Eric Archer, Tara Cox, Auriel Fournier and Diane Gendron

Please join us on 25 November 2020 at 8 PM EST for this forum. Participation is open to everyone. Registration is required to participate in this event and it is free to attend.

Link to register:
https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_9l04R8i5TFGenQ2HrZhljQ

We know that the timing will not work for all of our widespread members and we will be taking steps to address that. The conversation will be recorded and archived so our membership who can’t attend will be able to watch at their convenience. The panel will also respond to follow up questions that come from these delayed viewings. Most importantly, this is not the end of the conversation, merely the next step in our growth as a professional society.

About the Facilitator and Panelists:

Facilitator:

  • Eric Archer, PhD is currently head of the Marine Mammal Genetics Program at the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, CA. He is also co-chair of the ad hoc Diversity and Inclusion Committee in the Society of Marine Mammalogy. He is interested in paying forward the opportunities he has received and helping to open doors to a wide array of people with a curiosity for marine science.

Panelists:

  • Tara Cox, PhD is a Professor of Marine Sciences at Savannah State University and currently serves as Secretary and co-chair of the ad hoc Committee of Diversity and Inclusion for the Society for Marine Mammalogy. She has had paid and unpaid interns work in her lab.
  • Auriel M.V Fournier, PhD is the Director of Forbes Biological Station and an Assistant Research Scientist, Wetland Bird Ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey. In addition to her work as an ornithologist, ecologist she studies and publishes research on how unpaid labor impacts scientific career paths.  
  • Diane Gendron, PhD is a professor and researcher on cetacean ecology with a particular focus on monitoring blue whales in the Gulf of California and promoting conservation of the Northeastern Pacific population. She accepts seasonal unpaid interns to work with her program in Mexico and provides them with partial support during their time in the field. 
  • Cindy Peter, Msc is Coordinator of the Sarawak Dolphin Research Project, based at the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, where she is also a Lecturer. Currently the Member-at-Large for SMM, Cindy ran for the position to contribute as a voice for members from the developing nation and to increase inclusion of Asians in the Society.

While we encourage an open, transparent, respectful discussion above all, for those who prefer to remain anonymous, questions can be asked anonymously via the Q&A feature in the Zoom meeting, and we have also set up an anonymous comment box (here) for you to leave comments or questions prior to or during the forum.

Thank you for being a part of this important conversation.

Eric Archer and Tara Cox
Co-Chairs, Ad hoc Committee for Diversity and Inclusion
Society for Marine Mammalogy
diversity@marinemammalscience.org

Marine Mammal Science Editors’ Select Series Presents: “Tiger stripes” on estuarine dolphins? by Elizabeth Titcomb

  

We are pleased to announce the inaugural edition of the the SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series. This series will highlight 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.

Guest, Elizabeth Titcomb of Dolphin Census, presents: “Tiger stripes” on estuarine dolphins?

Thursday, 12 November 12, 2020
7:00 PM – 8:15 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Free and all are welcome

About this presentation:

In a long-term photo-identification study on dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon found unusual skin markings that had never-before been reported in cetaceans. The markings resembled parallel linear scars and were predominantly seen in females that had been pregnant, leading us to wonder if they were related to stretch marks seen in other mammals. At the moment, the exact cause for the skin markings is unknown.

Presented by Elizabeth Titcomb of Dolphin Census, find out more about this new mystery, the research that led up to it and get your questions answered during this 1-hour presentation followed by a Q&A session.

Free registration is required to attend. Space is limited.
Reserve your space here:
https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_mS3vEEmJTwucu3aW-L7jbw

 

Update Unpaid Internship Discussion: Statement from SEAMAMM and Panel Schedule

The following letter, drafted by the South East Asia Marine Mammal group was recently received by the Society for Marine Mammalogy.  The content of this letter will be part of the discussion during  our special panel on unpaid internships.  After some changes in participation we are looking to reschedule for late November.  More news soon.

To: The Board of the Society of Marine Mammal Science

From: The South East Asia Marine Mammal group (SEAMAMM)

14th October 2020

Unpaid Internships: A perspective from Asian Marine Mammal Researchers

What initiated this document

This document summarises the discussions of Asian marine mammal researchers in response to the recent petition sent on the MARMAMM list server requesting that the Society of Marine Mammalogy (SMM) stop advertising “unpaid internships” as these types of internships promote less diversity of researchers within the marine mammal science field and thus promotes exclusion. As a group of researchers from diverse national, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, who are currently under-represented in the field of marine mammal science, we wish to share our opinions with the SMM Board on the value of volunteer positions and internships in Asia. We also suggest some actions that may more effectively improve diversity and inclusion within SMM.

Who we are
The South East Asian Marine Mammal group (SEAMAMM) is a research and conservation collective that includes all people, regardless of race, religion, culture or gender, based in Asia. Originally we focused on research within the waters of Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, the marine waters of China from the Yangtze River south (including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao), and the northern waters of Australia from Torres Strait west to Broome in Western Australia (approximately 122° E longitude), however, we welcome all Asian researchers and those working within Asia to our discussions and meetings. We have held regional meetings since 1995 and between these meetings, we arrange a variety of workshops to build capacity in Asian marine mammal research and conservation initiatives. We also contribute to global initiatives, such as the IUCN Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMA) project and the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). We work within a variety of sectors, including academia, non-profit organisations, non-government organisations, consulting companies and individuals. The following is a summary of discussions held over the SEAMAMM chat group, an online meeting and additional contributions to an online document. Several of our group also serve on the board of SMM and on its sub-committees.

Discussion
Some members of our group’s initial reaction was that the petition, and the discussion surrounding it, did not impact Asian researchers, as “internships” in the sense that they were being discussed, are not common practise in this region. Indeed, in some Asian languages, there is no equivalent term for “internship”. Our discussions, therefore, first focused on the meanings of “intern”, “unpaid position” and “volunteer” and what these might mean in different Asian countries. It was generally
agreed that SMM should require that any requests posted on the SMM website for positions should clearly define what these position types are, as well as the scope of work expected from applicants, the source of funds and the nature of the entity the applicant would be working for. There was some discussion on what might differentiate a “work experience” or “volunteer” position from a position that should require remuneration. A working time frame of more than three months was generally agreed to be a period of work that should not be offered as an unpaid position and, in some Asian countries, three months unpaid work is the maximum time frame legally allowed. Most Asian countries have guidelines and regulations that advise how long unpaid positions might be and what work constitutes as reasonable within that position. SMM could develop better guidelines to assist potential students/graduates on how best to evaluate an unpaid position so that it is beneficial to future careers.

In several Asian countries, tertiary institute degrees require the student to complete two months “on the job training” (OJT) and institutes commonly approach NGO’s to request student placements. This provides NGO’s with support, in a region where resources are extremely limited, and it provides an insight to the work of marine mammal scientists and may encourage students to enter the field. It was noted that tertiary institutes do not provide financial support to either the student nor the entity which the students are placed in and it was commented that the responsibility for ensuring students were not exploited should befall to their institutes and ideally, universities or colleges should only place students with entities that can pay them. However, where marine mammal work is concerned in Asia, that narrows down the already few opportunities available. In Asia, NGOs welcome and are grateful for the assistance that OJT students and volunteers provide. During discussion, it was noted that all members of the group had either participated in OJT, or similar, and all had benefited from volunteer experiences and, as such, considered the opportunity to participate in active research and conservation programmes an essential stepping stone into the field. Group members’ experience varied from the mandatory requirements of their degrees as well as voluntary positions with local and regional NGOs or research programmes. Most members stayed within their own county, although some travelled regionally to volunteer and none felt they were exploited or taken advantage of. For those members of the groups that now accept volunteers, most requests come from students who know the work the group does. Rarely do these groups have to advertise and several receive unsolicited enquiries from overseas, requesting unpaid positions to assist the work being done. Both local and international volunteer contributions play an important role in achieving the research and conservation goals of these groups and, in some cases, highlight the work of the group internationally which benefits the group in additional ways. The solution to inequality of opportunity within the field of marine mammals science cannot come from small NGOs since their budgets are small and often restricted. It was agreed that donors and funding foundations must take more responsibility by providing funding for early career scientists.

Our discussions tried to identify real barriers to working in the field of marine mammal science in Asia. There are two main issues that SMM could provide support and assistance to.

1) Lack of Entry Level Job Opportunities
This is a huge gap which has to be overcome by Asian students. There are very few opportunities for new graduates, even if they have a lot of volunteer experience in the field. Without opportunities to start on the employment ladder, potential careers are thwarted from the onset. SMM could highlight this gap in job opportunities and actively promote, through the society and perhaps through their own institutes, and encourage the creation of more entry level opportunities.

2) Research Grant Rules Prohibiting Salaries
In general, most grants that are accessible to small Asian NGOs, exclude salaries as a component. This compounds the issue identified above and makes it extremely difficult for active Asian marine mammal research groups to provide career opportunities for graduates interested in working in this field. SMM could assess their own research grant processes and either remove restrictions on providing salaries or monetary support for research staff. In addition, for those grants that wish to advertise via SMM platforms, the board could assess the rules of that grant and ensure that the funding criteria do not restrict the ability of research projects to provide paid positions critical to the success of the research and which promote capacity building.

(Editor’s Note: At the time of receiving this letter the SMM Board had already moved to modify it’s small grants in aid of research program to allow for stipends.  Follow this link for more information.)

These are not the only barriers to a career in marine mammal science in Asia, however, these are issues that SMM could make a real contribution to.

Summary
It was agreed that the lack of diversity and the challenges encountered by some genders, cultures and nationalities in Asia entering the field of marine mammal science is little to do with unpaid internships. In fact, by restricting the ability of SMM to advertise any opportunity for work experience, paid or not, on its website creates additional barriers and reduces opportunities. Whereas this group empathises with the intention of the petition, to make the field of marine mammal science as inclusive as possible, it is tackling the issue from a very narrow point of view. Further, the petition authors did not consider the experience or reality of groups who do come from countries or cultures that are poorly represented within marine mammal science. Internships/volunteer or OJT positions are not obstacles to people who wish to enter the field of marine mammal science in Asia but instead provide opportunities that they would not otherwise have. The SMM website should be an open hub of information for all aspects of marine mammal science and not, in itself, exclude opportunities. The group concluded that the open letters written by Clapham and the SMM IRC committee articulated the feelings of this group well; if it was not for the opportunities provided by internships or volunteer positions, it would have been even harder for this group to enter the field of marine mammals science. The SMM can play a more active role in reducing obstacles by facilitating entry level job opportunities and promoting grants and awards that do not restrict salaries or stipends

We hope that you find our comments useful and we look forward to engaging in the proposed SMM online ‘townhall’ that will be dedicated to this topic.

Cindy Peter SMM Member at Large (Sarawak, Malaysia) cindycharity.peter@gmail.com
Lindsay Porter SMM Awards Committee (Hong Kong SAR) lindsay.jp@gmail.com Jo Marie Acebes, Balyena.org (The Philippines) Joey Gin Swen Ham (Brunei) Fairul Izmal, MareCet (Malaysia) Louisa Ponnampalam, MareCet (Malaysia) Danielle Kreb, Yayasan Konservasi RASI (Indonesia) Putu Liza Kusuma Mustika, (Indonesia) Mochamad Iqbal Herwata Putra, Reef Check Indonesia (Indonesia) Long Vu, Center for Biodiversity conservation and Endangered Species (Vietnam) Ruby Truong, Center for Biodiversity conservation and Endangered Species (Vietnam) Wint Hte, co-founder of Myanmar Coastal Conservation Lab (Myanmar) Yin Yin, co-founder of Myanmar Coastal Conservation Lab (Myanmar) Tara Sayuri Whitty, Keiruna Inc. (Myanmar) Naomi Brannan, SMRU Hong Kong (Hong Kong SAR) Niki Yeung Choi Fung, SMRU Hong Kong (Hong Kong SAR) Eszter Matrai, Ocean Park Hong Kong (Hong Kong SAR) Shaw Ting, Kwok, Ocean Park Hong Kong (Hong Kong SAR) Weerapong Mac Laovechprasit, University of Georgia (Thailand) Chalatip Junchompoo, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Rachawadee Chantra, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Oranee Jongkolpath, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Thanaphan Chomcheun, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Sunanthinee Phoonsawat, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Watchara Sakornwimon, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Pornthipa Hardwises, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Piyarat Khumraksa, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Patcharaporn Kaewmong, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand) Pathompong Jongjit, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (Thailand)

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