Marine Mammal Commission

2014 Grant Awards

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Projects Funded by the Marine Mammal Commission in Fiscal Year 2014

Topic A: Research/Projects

Sixteen years later: an updated evaluation of the impacts of chronic human interactions with bottle nose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) at Panama City, Florida, USA

Engleby, L., Powell, J., and Spradlin, T.

National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Office

Consolidate and complete a thorough review of newly available scientific literature (post Samuels et al. 2000) focused on human interactions with marine mammals worldwide. Determine the status and changes related to dolphin-human interactions over a 15 year time period in Panama City, Florida by replicating and comparing results to Samuels and Bejder (1998 and 2000). See link to project report and link to publication.

Reconstruction of Soviet whaling data

Ivashchenko, Y.

Seastar Scientific

Clarify specific details of Soviet whaling reports to enable a more accurate interpretation of the data contained within the existing reports. See links to publications:

  1.  Ivashchenko & Clapham, 2015
  2.  Clapham & Ivashchenko, 2016
  3. Ivashchenko, Y.V. & Clapham, P.J. 2017. Evaluation of the accuracy of reported noon positions from Soviet whaling factory ships. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, 17:23-28. Available for download here.
  4. Ivashchenko, Y.V., Clapham, P.J. & Brownell, R.L. Jr. 2017. New data on Soviet catches of blue (Balaenoptera musculus) and right whales (Eubalaena japonica) in the North Pacific. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, 17:15-22. Available for download here.

Advancing population genomics of cetaceans: a pilot study of methods to increase genetic power for species with low genetic diversity and small sample sizes, with specific application to sperm whale populations in the North Pacific

Morin, P.

National Marine Fisheries Service Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Development of a new method of genetic analyses for marine mammal population genetics. This method will be tested on sperm whale samples from the CA/OR/WA and Hawai‘i stocks to evaluate both the range of efficiencies for sequencing different numbers of samples and loci, and the differences in power to detect population structure with increases in the number of genetic loci.

Investigation of dolphin-fishery interactions and the impact of dolphins on fishing in Jamaica

O’Sullivan, C.

University of Technology, Jamaica

Assessment of whether or not dolphins in the waters around Jamaica are interfering with fishing traps and, based on the evidence collected, determine possible mitigation measures. Data collected will be relayed to the relevant government agencies as well as the fishermen involved in the project in order to inform government policy in Jamaica and promote the conservation of marine mammal species in Jamaican waters.

The final report is available from the Commission upon request.

Understanding western North Atlantic coast-wide distribution patterns of North Atlantic right whales

Rice, A.

Cornell University

Compare findings from an analysis of previously collected acoustic data with the current body of literature relative to identified gaps in survey effort at certain areas and times where right whales may be present. Analyze distribution of right whales over large geographic areas, as well as long term trends in seasonal variability at specific sites, during time periods when multiple recording deployments occurred simultaneously. Increase the current understanding of right whale seasonal distribution, which will facilitate the appropriate planning of management and mitigation efforts. See links to publication:

  1. Davis et al., 2017
  2. Charif et al., 2019

Minimally-invasive genetic sampling and determination of reproductive condition in Belugas (Delphinapterus leucas)

Richard, J.

University of Rhode Island

Develop minimally-invasive blow (exhale) sampling methodologies to assess reproductive condition and sex in unknown individuals using reproductive hormone concentrations in blow samples. Compare hormone levels in blow and blood in belugas, measure reproductive hormones, and sequence genetic markers from beluga blow samples. This project will contribute to beluga management by advancing the knowledge of their reproductive biology and by developing a minimally-invasive tool for studying beluga population dynamics. See link to publication.

Assessing the performance and health effects of type 1 satellite tags for large whales

Robbins, J.

Center for Coastal Studies

Establish the status of previously tagged Gulf of Maine humpback whales one year after modifications were made to the tags that were deployed in preparation for an evaluation of a new tag design in 2015. Improve understanding of the longer-term health, survival and fecundity of satellite-tagged whales.

The final report is available from the Commission upon request. To view an unpublished report submitted to the International Whaling Commission click here (Robbins et al., 2013; SC/65a/SH05).

Foraging ecology of Sowerby’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon bidens)

Visser, F.

Leiden University & Kelp Marine Research

Investigate the foraging behavior and habitat use of Sowerby’s beaked whale around the Azores and relate the behavior of this species to published records of the natural diving behavior of Cuvier’s and Blainville’s beaked whales in the framework of the sensitivity of beaked whales to sound exposure.

The final report is available from the Commission upon request.

Assessment of wound healing in hot-iron branded Steller sea lions

Walker, K.

University of British Columbia

Physiological and clinical assessment of wound healing in juvenile Steller sea lions following hot-iron branding using a combination of clinical and physiological measures.

Rapid assessment toolkit for small-boat surveys: estimating cetacean abundance in regions identified as priority sites for assessing and mitigating fisheries bycatch

Williams, R.

Oceans Initiative

Develop capacity for low-cost, small-boat surveys that can yield reliable abundance estimates and to bring line transect survey methods within reach of lower-income countries. Develop a toolkit (software and hardware resources) to facilitate rigorous surveys to fill in key data gaps, as well as YouTube videos explaining how to use the toolkit. Train biologists in Gabon/Congo on toolkit use to yield abundance estimates and to put bycatch rates into population-level context. By integrating training and capacity building (local and online) through study planning, data collection and analysis, each survey in a new region fills in data gaps and multiplies local capacity. Read this project’s latest publication here.

Topic B: Conferences, Symposia, Workshops, Meetings, and Publications

Using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for marine and terrestrial wildlife assessment

Angliss, R.

National Marine Mammal Laboratory

Support for a workshop directed at the use and applications of UAS to assessing marine and terrestrial wildlife species and their habitat. Researchers will be able to exchange information about UAS projects, analysis of UAS data, and access to airspace, as well as develop new partnerships. See the final workshop report here.

Support for a Northwest Atlantic Seal Research Consortium workshop on seals and ecosystem health and the citizen science website, the Marine Animal Identification Network (MAIN)

Di Giovanni, R.

Riverhead Foundation

Increase communication and collaboration through a two day conference and workshop focused on the ecological role of seals in multiple contexts, including predator/prey relationships, epidemiology, and indicators of ecological health or dysfunction. Improve a web-based citizen science reporting system and database management for marine mammal sightings. See final workshop report.

Stock delineation guidelines initiative

Martien, K.

National Marine Fisheries Service Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Meeting to review and summarize the utility of different lines of evidence for delineating stocks under the MMPA. Empirical examples of the application of each line of evidence to studies of marine mammal population structure will be presented in order to demonstrate their strengths and weaknesses and appropriate application to stock delineation. The products of the journal club and science meeting will also be used to inform a larger effort within the NMFS aimed at proposing a national policy for stock delineation under the MMPA. See the final meeting report.

Support for the 3rd International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas

Mattila, D.

International Committee on Marine Mammal Protected Areas

Support for international attendees from developing countries to attend the third International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas, focused on the theme of `Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs)– A Sense of Place, A Question of Size.’ A primary goal of the conference is to give attention to developing and refining criteria for the identification of IMMAs and to address the challenges and strategies of managing very large and very small marine mammal protected areas. Link to conference proceedings.

SeaBASS – Marine BioAcoustics Summer School


Penn State

Support for student travel to SeaBASS 2014 (Marine BioAcoustics Summer School), SeaBASS 2014 provided training for graduate students in marine animal bioacoustics, allowing them to develop a strong foundation in both marine animal biology and acoustics, foster technical communication across disciplines, and develop professional relationships within the field.

Workshop to test and refine Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMA) criteria and determine what thresholds and indicators may be useful

Notarbartolo di Sciara, G.

IUCN Joint Marine Mammal Protected Area Task Force

Support for an IMMA workshop that will focus on the development of guidelines for the identification of IMMAs in different types of environments (e.g. data poor vs. data rich), as well as starting the process for putting IMMAs in practice and developing the method (the plan is to focus on the South Pacific / Indo-Pacific areas because of the likely availability of regional experts). Link to conference proceedings.