The GEMM Lab focuses on the ecology, behavior, health, and conservation of marine megafauna, including cetaceans, pinnipeds, seabirds, and sharks. We aim to fill knowledge gaps about species ecology, health, and distribution patterns so that conservation efforts can be more directed and effective at reducing space-use conflicts with human activities.
We work closely with partners and stakeholders to fully understand issues and needs, and prioritize communication of our work and findings through a variety of formal and informal outlets.
The Marine Mammal Institute's Whale Telemetry Group (WTG) has pioneered the development of satellite-monitored radio tags to study the movements, critical habitats, and dive characteristics of free-ranging whales and dolphins around the world. Since the first deployment of a satellite tag on a humpback whale off Newfoundland, Canada, in 1986, the WTG has tagged a total of 462 whales from 11 different species. This work has led to the discovery of previously unknown migration routes and seasonal distribution (wintering and summering areas), as well as descriptions of diving behavior.
The WTG primarily focuses on endangered whale species whose distribution, movements, and critical habitats (feeding, breeding, and migration areas) are unknown for much of the year. Decision-makers use this valuable information to manage human activities that may jeopardize the recovery of endangered whale populations.
The objectives of the WTG’s telemetry studies are to (1) identify whale migration routes; (2) identify specific feeding and breeding grounds, if unknown; (3) characterize local whale movements and dive habits in both feeding and breeding grounds, and during migration; (4) examine the relationships between whale movements/dive habits and prey distribution, time of day, geographic location, or physical and biological oceanographic conditions; (5) provide surfacing-rate information that can be useful in the development of more accurate abundance estimations, or assessing whales’ reactions to human disturbance; (6) characterize whale vocalizations; and (7) characterize sound pressure levels to which whales are exposed.
Dr. Scott Baker's Cetacean Conservation and Genomics Laboratory (CCGL) conducts research on whales, dolphins, and porpoises with an eye toward conservation of several species of marine mammals. Scott works on collaborative projects throughout the world using genomics and historical data to determine what great whale populations might have looked like before human exploitation, and how they have changed over time. These projects also provide information about the current population status of several species of great whales. The CCGL also conducts surveys and uses genetic information to study trade-in "whale-meat" markets in Japan and the Republic of (South) Korea, identifying the species of origin for these products to be more closely tracked.
The Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network began in the 1980s, under the umbrella of the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network, as an informal alliance of marine mammal experts from Oregon universities interested in collecting information and specimens from stranded marine mammals. With the advent of the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program in 2002, funding for a dedicated full-time Stranding Coordinator became available, enabling work to progress from casual observations of marine mammal stranding events to a serious scientific endeavor involving the systematic collection, analysis, and archiving of stranding data and biological samples. Data collected from such events are entered into a national database that is used to establish baseline information on marine mammal communities and their health.
We investigate the ecology, behavior, and physiology of pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walrus). Pinniped stocks and population trends are analyzed about predator-prey interactions, anthropogenic (man-made) and natural variations in environmental conditions.
We focus on pinniped diving and foraging behavior about reproductive strategies. Of particular interest are the effects of physiological constraints on behavioral plasticity, and how these influence the ability of pinnipeds to respond to environmental changes.
Our research is carried out in many locations in Oregon, California, and Alaska, and as far away as Antarctica.
A key aspect of our work involves the development and application of innovative research approaches and new technologies to study animals that spend the majority of their life outside of our sphere of direct observation. Examples include infrared and 3D remote imaging, as well as the development of life-long satellite transmitters to monitor health, condition and vital rates in inaccessible species such as the Steller sea lion in Alaska.