Alejandro Fernández Ajó

Postdoctoral Scholar
fernaale@oregonstate.edu

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At OSU
Affiliated with: 
Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Laboratory (GEMM Lab)
Beyond OSU
Personal Interests: 

I am interested in applying and developing novel (non or minimally-invasive) methods in conservation physiology and endocrinology to understand the underlying physiological mechanisms associated with species declines, animal-stressor relationships, and population or species thresholds of tolerance to disturbances.

During my Ph.D. I focused my research on understanding the causes of the high rates of southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) calf mortality in Patagonia, Argentina, by utilizing hormone analyses in baleen. I retrospectively assess the baleen concentrations of two glucocorticoid hormones (cortisol and corticosterone) and one thyroid hormone (triiodothyronine, T3) in right whale calves both across their lifespans and in relation to the severity of Kelp Gull-inflicted wounds. I conclude from this investigation that the glucocorticoid concentrations measured in calf baleen positively correlate with the intensity of gull wounding. In contrast, thyroid hormone concentrations of calf baleen are relatively stable across time and do not correlate with gull wounding. These findings suggest that southern right whale calves exposed to kelp gull micropredation and harassment at Península Valdés, Argentina, experience high physiological stress levels that could negatively impact their health and survival. With this research, I provided that linked kelp gull (Larus dominicanus) attacks to significant stress response that can be a contributing factor to calf death. Thus, these data will help local authorities to make sound conservation and management decisions based on scientific evidence.

As a postdoc in the Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Laboratory, I will focus my research on hormone analysis of gray whale fecal samples to assess correlations and response to a variety of internal (pregnancy, age, nutritional state) and external (noise, vessel traffic, injury) stressors; aiming to fill information gaps to help guide conservation and management of wild populations as part of the GRANITE project  (https://mmi.oregonstate.edu/gemm-lab/granite-gray-whale-response-ambient...).

My Publications