Lab Description

The Marine Mammal Institute's Whale Habitate, Ecology and Telemetry (WHET) lab 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 WHET lab 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 WHET lab 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 WHET lab’s telemetry studies are to:

  • Identify whale migration routes
  • Identify specific feeding and breeding grounds, if unknown
  • Characterize local whale movements and dive habits in both feeding and breeding grounds, and during migration
  • Examine the relationships between whale movements/dive habits and prey distribution, time of day, geographic location, or physical and biological oceanographic conditions
  • Provide surfacing-rate information that can be useful in the development of more accurate abundance estimations, or assessing whales’ reactions to human disturbance
  • Characterize whale vocalizations
  • Characterize sound pressure levels to which whales are exposed.
Principal Investigator(s)
Endowed Associate Professor in Whale Habitats, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
Research Area(s)
  • Ecology
  • Marine Mammals
  • Marine Tools and Tech
  • Shifting Ecosystems
Agency/Affiliation
  • OSU