The CCGL is committed to a greater understanding of the molecular ecology and systematics of whales, dolphins and porpoises around the world. Our work on large whales is pursuing three inter-related themes:
To improve our understating of the impact of hunting on the abundance of whales and the ecological role of whales before human exploitation, we are working to improve population dynamic models by including genetic information on long-term effective population sizes before exploitation and minimum population size during exploitation.
To assess the current status of great whale populations, the CCGL is involved in three large-scale, collaborative studies: the Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks (SPLASH) project in the North Pacific; the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium's assessment of the population structure and migratory interchange of humpback whales in the South Pacific; and a worldwide study of genetic diversity and population structure of sperm whales through collaboration with the Ocean Alliance.
To conserve the future of whales and dolphins, we have continued surveys of ‘whale-meat' markets in Japan and the Republic of (South) Korea. The work is part of a long-term study of trade in protected whales and dolphins using a portable PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) laboratory to identify the species origins of the products.
The CCGL contributes to policy on the conservation of cetaceans through participation in the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the Cetacean Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
OSU PhD student Dori Dick’s presentation last week (July 16, 2014) to the Esri User Conference in San Diego was well received. Dori introduced geneGIS, a suite of computational tools for analyzing the spatial distribution and genetic relatedness of whales and dolphins. The development of the geneGIS toolbox for ArcGIS was funded by an Office of Naval Research grant to MMI associate director, Scott Baker, and Esri chief scientist, Dawn Wright. A description of the tools has now been published in the journal Transactions in GIS.
Scott Baker, associate director of Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute, agreed. "The often disreputable behavior of the whaling industry in the past, and some whaling nations today, does not inspire much confidence in a good faith return to commercial whaling," he said.
A new genetic study concludes that humpback whales in three different ocean basins are distinct from one another and should be considered separate subspecies. The new study builds on previous research led by MMI’s Dr. Scott Baker and published in December 2013, which identified five distinct populations of humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean.