Marine Mammal Commission

2017 Grant Awards

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Projects Funded by the Marine Mammal Commission in Fiscal Year 2017

Topic A: Research/Projects – Focal Area: Populations at Extreme Risk

Enhancing Scientific Knowledge about the Endangered Antillean Manatee in Cuba

Alemán, A. & Powell, J.

Sea to Shore Alliance

The endangered Antillean manatee subspecies faces numerous and increasing threats in Cuban waters. This project aims to increase monitoring efforts to better understand the species’ habitat use in high-risk areas as well as investigate population connectivity across the region by including data from Cuban manatee populations – vital steps towards responsible management.

View publication.

Assessing the distribution and abundance of the franciscana dolphin and mapping its threats in northern Sao Paulo (Brazil): moving towards conservation in practice

Danilewicz, D.

Grupo de Estudos de Mamiferos Aquaticos do Rio Grande do Sul Instituto Aqualie

The franciscana dolphin, the most threatened cetacean in South America, is often caught as bycatch in northern Brazilian fisheries. This project aims to identify core habitat use areas and estimate abundance of the species in order to inform future research and conservation efforts.

Molecular systematics, taxonomy, and conservation of a critically endangered cryptic lineage of balaenopterid whale from the Gulf of Mexico (Balaenoptera cf. B. edeni)

Leslie, M.

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

The Gulf of Mexico population of Bryde’s whales is potentially a different species than Bryde’s whales elsewhere. If so, this resident population of less than 50 whales could be critically endangered. This project aims to resolve evolutionary relationships between this and other species in the baleen whale family by collecting genome-wide DNA, performing genetic analyses, and estimating divergence rates in order to aid management efforts in U.S. waters.

Revisiting the demography, ecology, and threat risks of the critically endangered Taiwanese humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis taiwanensis) after a decade of conservation inaction

Wang, J.

CetAsia Research Group

Fewer than 75 Taiwanese humpback dolphins remain along an isolated stretch of western Taiwan. Although population declines are likely, little conservation action has taken place in recent years. This study aims to collect data on the abundance and rate of fishing-related injuries in this population to determine the severity of the decline and inform future management decisions.

Southern right whales as a model system to investigate the vocal behavior of North Atlantic right whale mother-calf pairs

Parks, S.

Syracuse University

Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) is an effective conservation tool for studying North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) and can be used to identify when right whales are in certain areas and inform management actions.  One challenge to current PAM is a gap in our understanding of the sound production by mother-calf pairs in this species. This project aims to determine whether southern right whales (E. australis) can serve as a useful model system to obtain better, and more robust, sample sizes for the acoustic repertoires of North Atlantic right whales.

View publication.

Developing and testing of an inexpensive GPS radio buoy system for early notification of marine mammal entanglements

Siemann, L., Patel, S., and Davis, F.

Coonamessett Farm Foundation, Inc.

Large whales, like the endangered North Atlantic right whale, regularly encounter fishing gear and may become entangled in fishing lines. This project aims to detect entanglement events in real time and ultimately reduce injury and mortality from these events through the use of an inexpensive warning system based on a new GPS radio buoy design. This study also has applications for tracking, locating, and recovering lost gear, potentially minimizing ghost gear.

Topic A: Research/Projects

Characterizing Depredation in Northeast U.S. Sink Gillnet Fisheries

Bogomolni, A.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Fishery interactions are a critical concern for marine mammal population and ecosystem health.  These interactions need to be better understood and costs of interactions minimized to maintain sustainable fisheries and fishing practices. This collaborative team aims to document gray seal fishery interactions in sink gillnet fisheries in order to find possible solutions to this issue. See link to project update.

Topic B: Conferences, Symposia, Workshops, Meetings, and Publications – Focal Area: Populations at Extreme Risk

Protect the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) in the peninsula of Karaburun and Sazan Island of Albania

Korro, K.

Royal Albania Foundation & Agriculture University of Tirana

The Mediterranean monk seal, the most endangered pinniped species in the world, has been documented in formerly restricted locations in Albania that are now open for increased tourism and fishing activity. In light of these new threats to the species, this project aims to increase local awareness and stakeholder involvement in the region to encourage protection.

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

Revision of and development of content for a beaked whale identification and research website

Andrew Read

Duke University Marine Lab

Revision to the content of the Smithsonian Institution’s beaked whale identification website.  This collaborative effort between Duke University Marine Laboratory and the Smithsonian Institution will combine specimen collection information and field data in a publicly-accessible website to increase knowledge of, and enhance the ability of users to identify, species of beaked whales.

22nd Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Society for Marine Mammalogy – Treasurer

Society for Marine Mammalogy

Support for student travel – specifically international student travel – to the Society for Marine Mammalogy’s 22nd Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, convened in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, October 23-27, 2017.