Intervening to save individuals and mitigate the effects of stressors to restore healthy populations.

The NMMF Conservation Medicine team collaborates with NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program and other federal, state, and international stakeholders to identify and carry out appropriate interventions to save individuals and improve the health and wellness of wild marine mammal populations. As the cumulative effects of man-made and environmental stressors on marine mammals continue to rise, it will be increasingly necessary to respond to animals in crisis. Our team has a unique combination of logistical and veterinary expertise to evaluate and participate in conservation interventions, with a focus on the safety and well-being of project personnel and the animals.

Documenting long-term impacts of oil spills for effective restoration

NMMF scientists are leading studies to understand the long-term impacts of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill on Gulf of Mexico dolphin and whale populations and providing scientific findings to support effective restoration and conservation strategies. Led by NMMF’s Dr. Lori Schwacke, the Consortium for Advanced Research on Marine Mammal Health Assessment (CARMMHA) includes over 30 scientists from across 9 organizations. CARMMHA’s research is focused on the long-term effects of the DWH spill, and includes health assessments of multiple dolphin populations, stable isotope and fatty acid analyses of dolphin and prey tissue samples, immunotoxicity studies, and statistical modeling to synthesize results and forecast expected timelines for recovery of Gulf of Mexico dolphin and whale populations.

Supporting emergency rescue of entangled or out-of-habitat marine mammals

NMMF field biologists are on-call to help NOAA or USFWS in emergency response activities across the southeastern U.S. when marine mammals such as dolphins or manatees are in need of rescue.

During our 2017 field studies in Barataria Bay, LA, the Conservation Medicine team observed a dolphin entangled with monofilament, noticeably cutting through the skin and blubber layer. We were able to successfully catch and restrain the dolphin (now known as “YV7”), and perform ultrasound to determine the depth of the line entanglement. Even though the dolphin had likely been entangled in the line for years, we were able to successfully remove the line and release the dolphin without further rehabilitation. We are happy to report that YV7 was again sampled in 2018 and determined to be pregnant, and then observed in 2019 during photographic monitoring surveys with a calf!

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