Category Archives: Student & Professional News

Experiences of Women in Marine Mammal Science webinar available on YouTube

The recording of the July 19, 2022 webinar on the Experiences of Women in Marine Mammal Science is now available for viewing on the Society for Marine Mammalogy YouTube channel. Please send any questions or comments to the SMM ad hoc Diversity and Inclusion Committee at diversity@marinemammalscience.org or WIMMS at:

Email: womeninmmsci@gmail.com
Website: https://wimms.weebly.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/womeninmmsci/
Twitter: @womeninmmsci
Hashtag: #womeninmmsci

Webinar with panelists exploring the experiences of women in the field of marine mammal science

We invite you to participate in a webinar on the “Experiences of Women in Marine Mammal Science” taking place from Tuesday, July 19, 2022, from 4-6pm GMT+1.

Organized by the Women in Marine Mammal Science (WIMMS) Initiative, in association with the Society for Marine Mammalogy Ad-hoc Diversity and Inclusion Committee, this webinar will consist of presentations by speakers from a diversity of backgrounds, career stages and sectors, and family considerations followed by a Q&A discussion with the speakers.

Webinar registrants will also have access to a free virtual screening of the film “Picture a Scientist” for a 3-day period overlapping the webinar.

Register for the webinar here: http://tinyurl.com/2p8uw2b5

2022-2023 Small Grants in Aid of Research Program Now Accepting Applications

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 is now open. 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 2022. 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 18 of 42 applicants from 12 counties received funding.

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

SMM Seminar Editors’ Select Series: Feeding tactics of resident Bryde’s whales in New Zealand

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.

Thursday, May 19th at 4 pm PDT / 7 pm EDT / 11 pm GMT (Friday, May 20th at 11 am NZST)
SMM Seminar Editors’ Select Series: Feeding tactics of resident Bryde’s whales in New Zealand

This event is free to attend and presented online via Zoom, but registration is required.
Register here:
 https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_90MvXhciTZ61bj-3rNwA-g
Space on Zoom is limited to the first 500 attendees. The talk will also be streamed live on the SMM Facebook page.

About this talk:
Baleen whales are the largest mammals on earth, but many questions about their behaviour remain unanswered as they are submerged in the pelagic environment. Among baleen whales, Bryde’s whales are one of the least known. They are a non-migrating species of baleen whale with a wide distribution. There is a small (∼ 135) year-round population of Bryde’s whales in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. We investigated their foraging behaviour using data collected by an archival tag (DTAG2), boat-based surveys, and drones. Our investigation not only revealed some interesting aspects of their foraging behaviour, but also helped us to understand other aspects of their lives such as rest.

About the presenter:
After receiving a Master’s in Marine Mammal Science from the University of St. Andrews, Sahar moved to New Zealand to do a PhD at the University of Auckland. She completed her PhD on behavioural ecology of Bryde’s whales and graduated in 2019. Since then, she has been doing something completely different from marine mammal science — she is a co-founder at a tech start-up in New Zealand. However, she hasn’t distanced herself from science; she continues to work on the papers from her PhD and plans to return to the marine science world full-time in the future.

Open access to all Marine Mammal Science papers is available to current SMM members. Open access to this article is made temporarily available to the public in the weeks around the presentation and can be found here.

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: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUc78IynQlubS2DVS1VZoplf_t42-yZOO

2022 Louis M. Herman Research Scholarship Winners

In 2022, the Louis M. Herman Research Scholarship received 17 proposals from Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong SAR, Madagascar, Mexico, Nicaragua, Scotland and the United States of America. The quality of submissions was extremely high, so much so that the Awards Committee is delighted to announce that this year there are two successful applicants; “Eavesdropping on Whales – Does Humpback Whale Song Convey Genetic Quality?” submitted by Franca Eichenberger of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland and “Exploring vocal development in humpback whales” submitted by Julia Zeh of Syracuse University, the United States of America

Click here to read the winning abstracts and find out more about Franca and Julia’s winning proposals. Congratulations to both our winners and we wish you success as your projects progress.
Thank you,
Lindsay Porter
Chair, Awards and Scholarships Committee
Society for Marine Mammalogy

 

Find out more about Louis M. Herman’s work and his legacy at the Dolphin Institute:
https://www.facebook.com/TheDolphinInstitute/
https://www.instagram.com/thedolphininstitute/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCodRoeOsT70S-AS5RV17NAA

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

SMM Seminar Editors’ Select Series: Sperm whale echolocation and foraging behavior during different sea states and sonar exposures

The SMM Seminar Editor’s Select 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.

Thursday, 24 March 2022 at 9 am PST (12 pm EST / 5 pm GMT)
SMM Seminar Editors’ Select Series: Sperm whale echolocation and foraging behavior during different sea states and sonar exposures — indications of masking?

About this talk:
Marine mammals that rely on sound for important life functions, such as echolocation, have evolved strategies to cope with auditory masking. However, these may not be completely effective or cost-free, raising concern for anthropogenic noise impacts. We investigated whether sperm whales (N=15 individuals with sound- and movement-recording tags) exhibited behaviors consistent with masking during experimental exposures to navy sonar and wind-generated surface noise. Compared to strong variation with depth, foraging and echolocation behavior was relatively stable throughout different sea states and sonar exposures. Nevertheless, small increase in apparent click levels and reduced prey capture attempts were consistent with our hypotheses for masking from sea state and sonar.

About the presenter:
Dr Saana Isojunno is a behavioral ecologist at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, based at the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM). She also works closely with the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU). She majored in fisheries and hydrobiology at University of Jyvaskylä, Finland, before she moved to St Andrews where she gained a masters in Marine Mammal Science in 2008 and a PhD in sperm whale foraging behavior and anthropogenic disturbance in 2014. Her research strives to better understand how individuals respond to, and cope with, environmental stressors and human activities. She focuses on applied questions such as the effects of underwater noise and marine renewables while drawing from fundamental science such as the non-consumptive effects of predators on prey.

Open access to all Marine Mammal Science papers is available to current SMM members. Open access to this article is made temporarily available to the public in the weeks around the presentation and can be found here.

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: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUc78IynQlubS2DVS1VZoplf_t42-yZOO

Dr. Randy Wells Receives the SMM Kenneth S. Norris Lifetime Achievement Award

(This news item is written in collaboration with Sondra Katzen, Chicago Zoological Society)

The Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) announced the 2021/2022 that Dr. Randall Wells, vice president of marine mammal conservation and director of CZS’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, received the Kenneth S. Norris Lifetime Achievement Award. The announcement was made earlier this month during a virtual members’ meeting.

“A Norris Award winner’s career has significantly altered the course of marine mammal science— through their science and deeds they have made our field substantially better and more complete than if they had never turned their energy towards marine mammals,” said Charles Littnan, president of the Society for Marine Mammalogy. “Dr. Wells far exceeds this bar. His contributions to our understanding of dolphin biology, ecology and behavior and his commitment to providing opportunity and his knowledge to young researchers is unparalleled. He has inspired generations of researchers and his influence will be felt for generations to come.”

The award, which is named after the SMM’s founding president, acknowledges individuals for their exemplary lifetime contributions to science and society through research, teaching, and service in marine mammalogy. It is awarded every two years and is the highest honor bestowed on members of the our SMM community.

“I am truly honored by this award, and humbled by the list of folks who have received it before me,” said Wells. “As someone who was a Norris doctoral student; who worked with him for 12 years, including a stint as his dolphin lab manager at Santa Cruz; and who had the opportunity to see his incredibly insightful mind at work time and time again, unraveling dolphin mysteries, this award has particular meaning to me. I have to credit most of the achievements of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program over the past 50-plus years to the efforts of a superb team of staff, students, and volunteers, as well as the support of the Chicago Zoological Society.”

In addition to being the current director of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, Dr. Wells co-founded the program in 1970, making it the world’s longest-running study of a wild dolphin population. Over the years, he and his team have made many contributions to knowledge of bottlenose dolphin behavior, social structure, life history, health, ecology, communication, and the effects of human activities on these complex marine mammals. The team also helps rescue entangled or injured dolphins, and has trained more than 400 researchers and students from more than 30 countries in dolphin research and conservation techniques that are now being applied to protect species around the globe.

Highly respected in his field, Dr. Wells also has assisted in studies, rescue efforts, and consultations for other marine life, including the highly endangered vaquita in the Gulf of California; spinner dolphins in Hawaii; Guiana dolphins in Brazil; blue, gray, bowhead, and humpback whales; manatees in Florida and Belize, Mekong River dolphins in Cambodia, and franciscana dolphins off the coasts of Argentina and Brazil, to name a few.

He has been author or co-author of several books, more than 290 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and more than 100 technical reports. Additionally, he has been a presenter or co-author of more than 700 presentations at professional meetings as well as invited public and university lectures.

Dr. Wells also has held leadership roles in several organizations—president for the Society for Marine Mammalogy during 2010-2012 and past-chair of the NOAA/USFWS Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events—and serves on the Committee of Scientific Advisors on Marine Mammals for the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, on the NOAA/USFWS Atlantic Scientific Review Group, on IUCN’s Cetacean Specialist Group, and on the Steering Group for the national Animal Telemetry Network.

As a Norris Award winner, Randy will be providing a plenary talk on a topic of his choosing, and I am certain it something not to be missed.  There will also be a more formal award ceremony at that time so that we can honor Randy and his achievements appropriately.  So congratulations once again to Randy and thank you for your tireless work and continued contributions to our field.

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.

SMM Seminar Editors’ Select Series: Ice seals as sentinels for algal toxin presence in the Alaskan Arctic

The SMM Seminar Editor’s Select 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.

Thursday, 17 February 2022 at 7 PM EST (4 PM PST / 12 AM UTC)
SMM Seminar Editors’ Select Series:
Ice seals as sentinels for algal toxin presence in the Alaskan Arctic

This event is free to attend and presented online on Zoom, but registration required.
Register here:
 https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_j-IwEcQQRAGoRFv8mpZIoA
Space on Zoom is limited to the first 500 attendees. The talk will also be streamed live on the SMM Facebook page.

About this talk:
The algal-produced neurotoxins domoic acid and saxitoxin permeate food webs in the Alaskan Arctic and subarctic, potentially threatening the health of high-level consumers. As water temperatures continue to rise in the Arctic due to climate change, marine mammal exposures to these toxins may be increasing as warmer ocean temperatures are more favorable for toxic algal blooms. We analyzed domoic acid and saxitoxin presence and levels in samples from the gastrointestinal tracts of almost one thousand Alaskan ice seals harvested over fifteen years for subsistence purposes. Though no clinical signs of health impacts were reported in harvested seals, one or both toxins were found in all four species studied. Additionally, the number of ice seal stomach content samples containing DA increased over time in seals collected in the Bering Sea, suggesting an increase in toxin prevalence in the region. Increasing toxin exposure in ecologically and culturally critical Alaskan species, including ice seals, raises concerns for potential health impacts if toxins continue to increase in the future.

About the presenter:
Alicia Hendrix is a PhD student in the University of Washington’s Environmental Toxicology program. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Scripps College. Her work has taken her throughout the Americas, studying threats to marine ecosystems as diverse as the Pacific intertidal and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef with organizations including the Cape Eleuthera Institute and the NOAA Fisheries. Her research interests include toxin and toxicant impacts on wildlife and human health, and methods for promoting ecosystem resilience in the face of new threats. She has mentored or taught students at elementary, high school, and undergraduate levels, and believes strongly in building partnerships with coastal communities to amplify regional voices and knowledge.

Open access to all Marine Mammal Science papers is available to current SMM members. Open access to this article is made temporarily available to the public in the weeks around the presentation and can be found here.

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: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUc78IynQlubS2DVS1VZoplf_t42-yZOO