Shoals Marine Lab 2016

Marine Mammal Biology at the Shoals Marine Lab was a fantastic experience this year!!  We had a wonderful group of students from Cornell, Brandeis, Skidmore, UNH, & URI.  Here are some highlights:

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Week 2 @ Shoals

The second week of IMMB 2015 flew by faster than the first.  The students were busy with more seal surveys, another whale watch, a fish lab, a scrimshaw art project, a seal necropsy, a post-necropsy swim call (water temp = 56 degrees!), and a stranding response to the rarely seen Delphinus inflatus.  In addition, each student completed an oral presentation for our class symposium, Seal Week – a theme that we modeled after Shark Week – to educate people about the misconceptions about the recovering seal populations of New England.

RadioLab: Hello

“It’s tough to make small talk with a stranger – especially when that stranger doesn’t speak your language. (And he has a blowhole.)”

RadioLab is a FANTASTIC radio program that presents engaging [and often fascinating] stories about science.  (Co-host Jad Abumrad recently won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship for his work on this and other programs).

This episode focuses on dolphin intelligence and communication.  D. Graham Burnett, science historian and author of “The Sounding of the Whales: Science and Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century”, gives a great analysis of why people care so much about whales and dolphins.  Act Two, describing a wild dolphin communication project in the Bahamas gives a very realistic account of why field work can be so difficult – and why projects can go for several years with no results.

[UPDATE – 07/23/15] This piece was highlighted in “Roughly 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism” for 2014 by The Atlantic.

Day 14 @ Shoals

The students took their final exam, and then we completed another seal survey in the dreamy twilight.  Then we headed to Star Island for ice cream, porch sitting, and a beautiful sunset.  The supermoon (a.k.a. Full Buck Moon) was rising as we rode back to Appledore

Day 5 @ Shoals

We took a trip to [foggy] Duck Island for a gray seal monitoring survey, and then Mary showed students how to complete abundance estimates and photo ID from photos of haul out sites.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the photo ID process, especially choosing names for seals based on distinguishing marks (photos above).  A large thunderstorm, with lots of lightning, in the afternoon gave way to a double rainbow during dinner.  Around 9:00, the skies lit up with heat lightning as well as fireworks from many towns on the New Hampshire and Maine coasts.

Seal photo by Alexa Hilmer

{flight} 08 June 2014 Great South Channel

Christin Khan, at NOAA Fisheries in Woods Hole, keeps a great blog where she posts photos and aerial survey reports.  Check out her fantastic photos from a recent flight in the Great South Channel (Gulf of Maine).  Besides right and sei whales, who are feeding on plankton, they also saw almost 100 basking sharks.  The all-you-can-eat lunch buffet is definitely open!

Photo credits: NOAA/NEFSC/Christin Khan.  Images collected under MMPA Research Permit Number 17355

Sei whale mom & calf.

Right whale calf, with mom below.

Sei whales feeding.

Right whale feeding.

Roll it

The [beloved] NOAA Ship Albatross IV was decommissioned in 2008, and eventually sold to the Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas in Mexico.  Here is a video of the A4 arriving at the CIDIPORT Research Center.  I had dreamed of purchasing this vessel, refitting it (Steve Zissou style), and using it as a charter vessel for all of my friends and colleagues.  Some dreams are not meant to be…

via: Chris Tremblay