The story of Eg2301(chronically entangled North Atlantic right whale) is featured in Hakai Magazine this month. Read on for a glimpse into the life and death of a North Atlantic right whale. Many thanks to Jenny Holland for her great idea and thorough reporting on this piece.
Eg2301, a North Atlantic right whale seen here with her calf, was later caught in fishing gear. She died in 2005 due to her injuries and the persistent, energy-sapping drag of the line. Photo by New England Aquarium taken under NOAA permit #775-1600-2
My latest article, Characterizing the Duration and Severity of Fishing Gear Entanglement on a North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) Using Stable Isotopes, Steroid and Thyroid Hormones in Baleen, has just been published in Frontiers in Marine Science, part of the Research Topic Integrating Emerging Technologies into Marine Megafauna Conservation Management.
Sonic Seais a new documentary that highlights the ways in which industrialized ocean noise affects whales – including their communication, foraging, navigation, and stress. You can see the film on the Discovery Channel or at various screenings around the country.
“Oceans are a sonic symphony. Sound is essential to the survival and prosperity of marine life. But man-made ocean noise is threatening this fragile world. Sonic Sea is about protecting life in our waters from the destructive effects of oceanic noise pollution.”
Mocha Dick (2009): wool felt, vinyl coated fabric, and internal fan
“Mocha Dick is a 52-foot-long recreation of the real-life albino sperm whale that in the nineteenth century terrorized whaling vessels near Mocha Island in the South Pacific. Mocha Dick, was described in appearance ‘he was as white as wool’ in an 1839 magazine article from The Knickerbocker, engaged in battle with numerous whaling expeditions, often sinking smaller boats, and was a source of inspiration for Herman Melville’s epic Moby Dick.”
I accepted a 1 year position at Baylor University to work with Steve Trumble (physiologist) and Sascha Usenko (environmental chemist) to learn the ropes and contribute to their whale earplug project. They have developed a method to examine lifetime stress, reproductive, and contaminant exposure histories using the earplug as a model tissue. Baleen whales accumulate wax in their ear canal (which is closed to the external environment and never gets cleaned out with a Qtip!) and in many species this wax plug forms annual growth layers. The layers, or lamina, can be sampled to generate chemical profiles that represent the whale’s entire life. This has major implications for learning about stress levels, especially for species that encounter ship noise, oil and gas exploration or chemical exposure. The focus of my work will be on an earplug collected from a bowhead whale. For my part, I’m interested to learn how to measure these new [to me] markers and hope to use these skills in my ongoing work looking at chemical profiles in baleen.