Conservation Biology

Marine mammals face many challenges in their environment, such as finding food, competing for mates, raising offspring, avoiding disease, and evading predators. They also face challenges from human activities, including competition for food, interactions with fishing gear, pollution (trash and chemicals), and noise. Many of the challenges imposed by humans on marine mammals can be mitigated, but this can only be effectively done when sufficient information about the biology of marine mammals is known.

The goal of the Conservation Biology program is to perform fundamental research on the biology of marine mammals, including their behavior, physiology, and ecology, with the goal of mitigating human impacts and improving the conservation of marine mammal species. Applied research is also conducted to better understand how certain types of human activity affects marine mammals. For example, we study the behavioral and physiological responses of marine mammals to noise exposure.

The results of studies conducted by the Conservation Biology program tie directly into the conservation efforts of the NMMF.

The information is made readily available through publications in scientific journals, presentations at scientific meetings, outreach to the community and public schools, and through NMMF social media. Members of the Conservation Biology research group also engage with federal regulators to ensure they are informed of the latest science relevant to marine mammal conservation and management.

Acoustic Monitoring of River Dolphins in the Amazon

The NMMF is collaborating with the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) in the Amazon to obtain a better understanding of the population structure and habitat use of the tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis) and the boto (Inia geoffrensis). Both of these odontocetes are threatened by human encroachment, fishing, and other activities in the Amazon. The IUCN has designated the boto as endangered, but no designation has been made for the tucuxi because it is considered data deficient, i.e. population sizes and habitat usage are largely unknown. The NMMF funded the installation of an acoustic recording node in an area believed to be frequently used by the dolphins. The data collected by the node contributes to improving our understanding of habitat use and resolving data deficiencies. The long-term goal of the effort is to establish a network of passive acoustic monitors throughout the Amazon that allow for real-time, remote monitoring for the presence of the river dolphins.

Biologic and Bioacoustic Research Team