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WHOI Marine Mammal Center for Conservation
The oceans face an increased number of anthropogenic impacts on marine mammals and other marine life. There are growing demands to bring together scientific expertise, resources and technology innovation to address the effects of human activities on marine mammals and the ecosystems on which they depend. Many of the unintentional impacts are difficult to monitor and detect, yet they pose serious risks to marine life.
The Marine Mammal Center (WHOI MMC) at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution:
- conducts basic research using cutting-edge technology to solve major scientific and conservation problems.
- integrates diverse approaches and methods to understanding marine mammals and the different ways humans may influence the health of marine mammals, their populations, and their ecosystems.
- includes a diverse group of scientists and engineers, and acts as a clearinghouse and incubator for interdisciplinary teams.
As fewer marine mammals are hunted intentionally by humans, conservation focus has switched to the animals killed by accident (for example, in fishing gear) and to degradation of their habitats. These threats are global; they caused the extinction of the Chinese River dolphin in 2007 and continue to threaten right whales in New England.
The Marine Mammal Center will integrate diverse approaches and methods to understanding marine mammals and the different ways humans may influence the health of marine mammals, their populations, and their ecosystems.Some conservation issues the center will address include effects of:
- anthropogenic sound on marine mammals
- ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear
- chemical pollution
- shared infectious diseases
- climate change on marine mammal populations
- coastal and marine development on marine mammal habitats
WHOI has been a pioneer in marine mammal research since WHOI researchers founded the field of marine mammal bioacoustics in the late 1940s. Researchers at WHOI have been experts in developing new technologies to make many discoveries about how marine mammals have specialized in using sound to communicate, to feed, and to orient in the ocean. Recently, a multi-year initiative, funded through the Ocean Life Institute in collaboration with the New England Aquarium, supports scientific research that has direct application to right whale conservation issues.
WHOI maintains and provides access to world-class research facilities and educational programs, including:
- Research vessels, moorings, and autonomous underwater vehicles provides quick, affordable, and effective sea-going operations
- The marine research facility houses laboratories for necropsies, CT scanning, instrument testing and development, student study and archives
- The Joint PhD Program with MIT and the WHOI postdoctoral program provide excellent training for researchers, and the Center will enhance opportunities for conservation-related education
The center’s strength in basic research and technology, with a focus on conservation applications, promotes the development of new interdisciplinary teams and opportunities.
The WHOI Marine Mammal Center is affiliated with the Ocean Life Institute and evolved from its North Atlantic Right Whale Initiative.