Category Archives: Society News

SMM Conservation Committee Welcomes a New Chair

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


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.

Distribution, habitat use, and abundance of the endangered franciscana in southeastern and southern Brazil

Age structure of strandings and growth of Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatusgephyreus)

Ontogenetic and sexual characterization of the feeding habits of franciscanas, Pontoporia blainvillei, based on tooth dentin carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes


Editors’ Select Seminar Series: Drones and marine mammals in Svalbard, Norway

We are pleased to announce the next 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, Albert Palomino-González of Universidad Austral de Chile presents: “Drones and marine mammals in Svalbard, Norway, 9 AM Pacific Time (4 PM UTC)

May 20, 2021 4 PM UTC (9 AM PDT)
Online. Free to attend. Space is limited. 

Reserve your spot for this free 1-hour presentation followed by a Q&A session here.

About this talk:
The use of drones has risen exponentially in recent years, following an increasingly widespread use among hobbyists and researchers, although their effects on wildlife behaviour are not always well known. Our project studied the impact of drones on different species of arctic marine mammals, including walruses, polar bears, belugas and harbour seals in Svalbard, in order to provide management advice to the local authorities. Over the course of several field expeditions, the team used a range of drone models, and tested different approach strategies and flight altitudes. We also measured the sound emitted by the drones to help us evaluate the impact of different type of flights on wildlife. Overall, harbour seals reacted to the drones from a distance of 80 m, while walruses reacted when flying closer than 50 m. Flying manually, especially overflying or descending over the animals, led to noisier flights and caused more disturbance than when flying in automatic mode. Polar bears noticed the drones at distances over 300 m, especially with calm weather conditions, and belugas reacted strongly when approaching the pods from the front, or at altitudes below 15 m. We recommend following trajectories that can be predicted by the animals, such as straight-line or circular paths, and using flight planner applications in order to minimise abrupt noises. Finally, events that took place and conditions prior to a flight, such as the encounter of a predator, may directly influence how wildlife reacts to drones, so we advise drone pilots to follow a precautionary principle.
Open access all Marine Mammal Science papers is available to current SMM members. Open access to this article will be made temporarily available to the public between 29-May 7 2021.

About the presenter:
Albert Palomino is currently a PhD student at Universidad Austral de Chile. He graduated at UiT The Arctic University of Norway from a master’s programme in marine ecology, where he developed the project Drones and Marine Mammals in Svalbard together with researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute.

His main research interests are the effects of environmental change on marine predator population dynamics and the impact potential of anthropogenic activities on wildlife behaviour.

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:

Gratitude for Dr. Doug Wartzok

Greetings SMM members and global marine mammal community.  I would like to bring attention to the change in leadership of our Committee of Scientific Advisors (CSA) that was announced in our recent newsletter.  Dr. Doug Wartzok, after 11 excellent years as Chair of the CSA, is handing over the reins to Dr. Laura May-Collado.  In total, Doug has given two decades of himself to the Society Board and our membership.  Doug has been with the Society since before it was a society and is one of a relatively small cohort of founding members.  He has always sought to serve the community he helped create – either as the Editor for our flagship journal or Chair of the Committee of Scientific Advisor.  His long experience with the Society eased the entry of every President he has worked with and provided a steadying hand for our growth as we honor our history and adapt to our future.  Doug is always engaged and ever-thoughtful on every topic tackled by the Board.  And he is relentless in his support for fostering high-quality science within our society.  

All of our board members, past and present, are unsung heroes who give willingly of their time and energy to help the SMM grow and evolve the way in which we support our members and the science and conservation they undertake.  There are few, however, that have given as much (and continue to give) as Doug Wartzok.  Thankfully, Doug isn’t straying too far as he leaves the CSA.  He has kindly agreed to step in to lead our Ad Hoc Archives Committee. If you see him in the future, please thank him.  He has been working hard for all of us for decades and you quite possibly never knew it. Many thanks Doug!!

And thank you to Dr. May-Collado for stepping up to this important position and for being willing to help shepherd the good work of the CSA!


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!

SMM Editor’s Select Series: “What Does It Take to Power a Walrus?” with Dr. David Rosen

We are pleased to announce this edition of 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.

Dr. David Rosen of the University of British Columbia presents: “What Does It Take To Power A Walrus? Predicting the Effect of Climate Change on Food Requirements of an Iconic Arctic Species.”
April 15, 2021 5 PM Pacific Time (1 AM UTC)

About this talk:
Climate change is rapidly altering the Arctic ecosystem, including dramatic decreases in the extent of summer ice. Scientists are trying to predict the effect of these environmental transformations on wildlife. This includes the Walrus, an iconic, ice-dependent species that relies on stable ice surfaces to rest and act as a base for foraging on nearby food beds. Mathematical bioenergetic models are a typical tool that scientists use to predict the food energy requirements of animals under different conditions, and several such models have been constructed for walruses. However, these models are only as accurate as the data that goes into them. This talk will describe several studies that measured the costs of resting in water and swimming in two juvenile walruses on loan to the Vancouver Aquarium. I will describe what it was like to work with these boisterous, large animals on a daily basis, the scientific challenges and opportunities they provided, and what the resulting data tells scientists about the costs of global warming on these animals. Open access to this and all Marine Mammal Science papers are available to current SMM members and will be made temporarily available to public between 15-22 April 2021.

About the presenter:
Dr. David Rosen is Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia. His current research primarily investigates the bioenergetics (energy requirements and expenditures) of marine mammals. Its focus is to understand the root causes of population changes by investigating the interactions between the physiology of individual animals and biotic and abiotic environmental changes. The work directly contributes to the conservation and management of marine resources, particularly those in Arctic region, where environmental change – including climate change and fisheries impacts – is most evident.

Announcing SMM’s First Hybrid (Online and Live) Biennial Conference

Dear SMM members and future conference participants,

The very first fully hybrid conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy will be held on December 13-17, 2021. Going hybrid means there are two ways to participate in SMM2021: live and in-person at the Palm Beach County Convention Center and/or virtually through our new online experience.

Our top priority is to provide a safe, healthy and inclusive experience for ALL participants at SMM2021.

All attendees will have access to the virtual conference so people who will not be able to join the conference in person will still be able to participate, present, and interact with other conference attendees and vendors. It will be a whole new conference experience!

The conference will span 5 days and each day there will be a Plenary session with distinguished keynote speakers that will be live-streamed. Concurrent sessions will be accessible to all attendees via pre-recorded content. All presenters in all formats (e.g., regular and speed talks, poster, video) will be required to record and upload their presentation 4 weeks prior to the conference start date. Virtual content will be available on-demand for all in-person and virtual attendees during the conference and for 30 days post-conference.

In-person presentations will be presented live at the venue; these sessions will not be live-streamed. All pre-recorded presentations will be made available at the start of each respective session for virtual and in-person attendees. In addition, a virtual Q & A session with the presenters will be streamed for the virtual audience during scheduled times following the completion of each live session.

Workshops on crucial topics in marine mammal science and conservation will be held prior to the main conference, December 11-12, 2021. Virtual participation in these workshops will depend on individual workshop organizers, but will not be included in the virtual conference experience.


The deadline for abstract and workshop proposal submissions is 11:59 PM, EST (GMT-5) on April 11, 2021. You DO NOT have to pay for registration or decide whether you will be participating in-person or virtual at the time of abstract or workshop submission; however, we are asking you to indicate your preference at the time of submission.

Acceptance emails for abstracts and workshops will be sent on June 8, 2021. Authors will have until 11:59 PM, EST (GMT-5) on June 24, 2021 to confirm their participation and determine if they are presenting in-person or virtually. Authors will receive an email with their assigned date and time for presenting on July 27, 2021. To confirm and hold your space, authors are required to complete registration by the early bird registration deadline of 11:59 PM, EST (GMT-5) on August 11, 2021.

All presenters will have until 11:59 PM, EST (GMT-5) on September 15, 2021 to change their participation preference (i.e. virtual to in-person and vice versa) without penalty. After September 15, there will be no refunds for registration.

See you this December!


The SMM2021 Organizing Committee
Amy C. Hirons, Conference Co-Chair
Jeremy J. Kiszka, Conference Co-Chair
Stephen Trumble, Scientific Program Co-Chair
Sascha Usenko, Scientific Program Co-Chair
SMM2021 Facebook Event

SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series: The Impact of Warm Water Anomalies on the Guadalupe Fur Seal Foraging Habitats

SMM Seminar Editor’s Select Series: The Impact of Warm Water Anomalies on the Guadalupe Fur Seal Foraging Habitats
with María José Amador-Capitanachi
11 March 2021 at 5 PM Pacific Time (1 AM UTC)

About this talk:
The Guadalupe fur seal (GFS), currently is recovering from near extinction. As this species continues to recover, it is important to understand how its foraging success may be affected by warm water and other oceanographic anomalies in the northeastern Pacific. We assessed the foraging ecology of the GFS over a period that was characterized by normal (2013) ocean temperatures followed by warm conditions (2014–2016). We used scat analysis to identify differences in GFS prey between 2013 and anomalous years. The most important prey species among these years was the jumbo squid, followed by the neon flying squid during warmer years. An additional analysis based on stable isotope suggested a broader northerly or offshore foraging areas during these anomalous conditions. Our findings are an important step toward better understanding the impacts of climate change on the recovery of the GFS.
About the Presenter:
Maria Jose Amador-Capitanachi is an MSc student at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional

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

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.

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.

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.

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.