A Gut Feeling: Genetic identification of gray whale prey from fecal samples

Molecular biomonitoring has become an increasingly important tool in recent years, most notably in the form of metabarcoding of environmental DNA (eDNA) and dietary DNA (dDNA) (Sousa et al. 2019; Chavez et al. 2021). These methods have been used to identify prey from stomach and fecal contents from marine predators such as pelagic fishes, pinnipeds, and whales (Sousa et al. 2016).

Environmental (e)DNA for detection and identification of whales and dolphins

Advances in analyses of environmental (e)DNA now offer an alternative for detection and identification of rare, cryptic, or vulnerable cetacean species. The Conservation and Genomic Laboratory is currently involved in a number of studies collecting (e)DNA from cetacean species, including killer whales, beaked whales and North Atlantic right whales.

Epigenetic approaches to determining cetacean ages

An individual's age is a critical parameter for understanding population structure and informing management actions, but the traditional methods for aging cetaceans require tissues obtained invasively or from dead individuals. 

How Few Whales Were There After Whaling?

In order to determine the present state of recovery of whale populations, it is critical that we are able to accurately reconstruct the history of their exploitation. This is typically performed by fitting an abundance trajectory through three points in time; the first is prior to exploitation, when the population is assumed to have been at carrying capacity; the second is at the point of minimum abundance (the ‘bottleneck'), which is generally constrained to be greater than zero; the third is provided by current abundance estimates from the recovering population. While the third point in the trajectory tends to be well characterized, little attention has been given to estimating the point of minimum abundance.

Monitoring of Whaling and Trade in Endangered Species

Despite a world moratorium on commercial whaling passed by the International Whaling Commission in 1982, whaling continues under the guise of scientific research by Japan and through consistent fisheries "bycatch" of whales in South Korea. Products from both scientific research and bycatch are legally sold in these countries.

Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks (SPLASH) and GeneSPLASH

SPLASH was an international cooperative effort involving researchers from the United States, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Canada, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala. The aims of the three-year project were to understand the population structure of humpback whales across the North Pacific, and to assess the status, trends in abundance and potential human impacts to this population.

The New Zealand Subantarctic Stock of Right Whales

Right whales and other baleen whales were hunted to near extinction during the last two hundred years, virtually eliminating an entire trophic level of primary consumers, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere. Using only sail power and hand-held harpoons, European and 'Yankee' whaling ships severely depleted northern right, southern right (including the Auckland Island stock), bowhead, gray and, in some regions, sperm whales before the end of the 19th century.

The South Pacific Whale Research Consortium

The South Pacific Whale Research Consortium (SPWRC) was formed by independent scientists to investigate the status of humpback and other whale species in the region of Oceania, including New Zealand and eastern Australia. Members have been involved in field studies initiated as early as 1991 in New Caledonia, the Kingdom of Tonga, the Cook Islands and French Polynesia, as well as eastern Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific coast of South America, the Ross Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula.