Talking about MERS research in Washington

One week ago, on April 30th, MERS President Christie McMillan and myself drove south to Seattle to attend the Salish Sea Marine Ecosystems conference the following day. It was a hot day with minimal delays at the border and smooth sailing all the way to the city.

On thursday morning (May 1st) we both presented on some of the research we are doing with MERS during the Birds and Mammals session at the conference. This session was well attended with about 75-100 people in the audience at any given time. Christie’s talk was titled “Anthropogenic threats to humpback whales in the Salish Sea: insights from northeastern Vancouver Island”. It provided an overview of the population trends of humpback whales in the Salish Sea and off northern Vancouver Island for the last decade and discussed the threats of vessel strikes and entanglement for these whales. My own talk was titled: “New insights into seasonal foraging ranges and migrations of minke whales from the Salish Sea and coastal British Columbia”. It presented the results from 8 years of photo-identification research on minkes in BC and Washington and discussed the seasonal movements of these whales and the ecological markers on their bodies. Both talks were well received.

Christie discussing anthropogenic threats to humpback whales at the Salish Sea conference in Seattle
Christie discussing anthropogenic threats to humpback whales at the Salish Sea conference in Seattle

Two days later Christie and I presented again in Bellingham at the annual meeting of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, northwest student chapter. Christie discussed the design and results of her thesis on energetic requirements, diet composition, and localized prey preferences for humpback whales in BC while I provided a keynote address on monitoring population trends and distribution with photo-identification and ecological markers. This talk gave an overview of much of the work I have been involved with researching killer whales but also provided insights for using visual methods to attain meaningful results for understanding other cetacean populations. The two presentations were well received and we both enjoyed the absolutely excellent selection of talks and posters provided by other students in attendance from BC, Washington, Oregon and California.

All in all we enjoyed our time south of the border talking about things that we think are important with like-minded folks. It was also nice to see some old friends and meet some new ones. We’d like to thank the organizers and facilitators of the Birds and Mammals Session at the Salish Sea Marine Ecosystems Conference namely Nathalie Hamel, Joe Gaydos and Peter Arcese for running such a smooth operation. We’d also like to thank Kat Nikolich for running a seamless meeting in Bellingham and providing MERS with the opportunity to talk about some of our work.


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