www.acspugetsound.org home page American Cetacean Society Puget Sound Chapter

PREVIOUS SPEAKERS : 2007-2008 Series

The Puget Sound Chapter of the American Cetacean Society would like to sincerely thank the following presenters.

18 June 2008 - Lynne Barre
Recovery of Endangered Killer Whales

Lynne Barre, of NOAA Fisheries, will give some background on development of the Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery program, and what is being done to implement this program.

Lynne Barre has been working in the Northwest Regional Office of NOAA Fisheries for the last five years. Lynne has been involved in the ESA listing of Southern Resident killer whales- including the status review, listing, critical habitat designation, recovery planning and section 7 consultations. In addition to working on killer whales, Lynne helps coordinate the stranding network and other management activities for marine mammals in the region. She worked in NOAA's Office of Protected Resources in the permits division for two years before heading out to the Northwest. Lynne has also worked for National Geographic and spent several years conducting bottlenose dolphin research in Western Australia.

21 May 2008 - Jessie Huggins
CSI: Cetacean Stranding Investigation

Stranded cetaceans provide a unique opportunity to gain insight into cetacean physiology and health. Through thorough assessment of stranded animals, we can monitor several areas of concern, including disease prevalence, contaminant levels, and frequency of human interactions. We will discuss tools and techniques of stranding response and examination, and using the recent 2006-2007 Northwest Harbor Porpoise Unusual Mortality Event (UME) as an example, look at the collaborative efforts required for a large-scale stranding investigation

Jessie has worked as a Research Assistant at Cascadia Research since 2004 and has been heading up Cascadia's stranding response program for over three years. She received a BS in Zoology from the University of Washington in 2001 and is currently serving as the On-Site Coordinator for the 2006-2007 Northwest Harbor Porpoise Unusual Mortality Event.

16 April 2008 - Jonathan Stern
Minke Whales: At the Crossroads

Jonathan Stern is the ACS National Conservation Chair, and has represented us at the International Whaling Commission meetings for the last few years. He is also a charter member of Whales Need Us. Jon has studied minke whales since 1980. He has also conducted research on killer, pilot, fin, humpback and gray whales as well as bottlenose dolphins. He has Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Biology and a Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. In addition to field work, he uses computer models to investigate a variety of ecological questions. He first got interested in whales at the age of 8, when his father's ship was struck and its rudder disabled by a whale, about 500 miles from Australia.

19 March 2008 - David Bain
Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery

David Bain, one of ACS/PS's Scientific Advisors, has studied orcas both in captivity and in the wild for over 20 years. His research has focused on social behavior, communication, and population dynamics of orcas. These studies have addressed kin and non-kin based association patterns, baby-sitting behavior, and energetics. They have also addressed sound production mechanisms; call structures, repertoires and learning; and hearing abilities. Other studies have addressed population dynamics of wild orcas and survivorship of cetaceans in captivity.

Determining the effects of vessel traffic on orcas has also been a major research area, along with studies of the effects of noise on a variety of marine mammals. He has also worked on rescue and rehabilitation of several species of stranded cetaceans, including orcas entrapped in Barnes Lake and the orphaned orca "Springer."

David has worked with a number of government agencies and non-governmental organizations, such as the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Geological Survey, The Whale Museum, Center for Biological Diversity, and Earth Island Institute.

Recovery of Southern Resident Killer Whales will take many different courses of action, each of which will operate on a different time scale. Efforts to address effects of vessel traffic should result in some population growth right away. Restoration of salmon stocks is the course of action that should lead to the largest population increase, but it will take many years to see the benefits of these steps. Efforts to clean-up the Sound and reduce exposure to toxic chemicals will take decades to show benefits. Throughout the recovery program, the population needs to be protected from oil spills, disease, and injurious levels of noise. Prompt actions are necessary to prevent loss of genetic diversity while the population goes through this bottleneck. Other steps may be required to address threats not previously recognized. For example, climate change may reduce food availability and increase exposure to novel pathogens, offsetting progress in other areas. Puget Sound Killer Whale Recovery ESA Plan

20 February 2008 - Mike Etnier
Using sectioned teeth to study Odontocete diet

Mike Etnier received his PhD in anthropology from the University of Washington in 2002, and is an affiliate association professor in the Department of Anthropology. A zooarchaeologist by training, he uses bones and teeth to study changes in the ecology of marine ecosystems over the recent and distant past in the North Pacific. The samples Etnier analyzes come from natural history museum collections and from archaeological excavations, allowing him to retrospectively examine ecological changes throughout the 20th Century, or potentially extending back thousands of years. He lives and works in Bellingham, where he operates a small business, applied Osteology, that combines his interests in archaeology, marine ecology, and secondary science education.

ABSTRACT: The diets of free-ranging cetaceans can be extremely difficult to document: stomach samples from stranded animals may not reflect the diet of healthy animals, while field observation data are extremely expensive to acquire and yield a similarly incomplete picture. Our approach uses chemical signatures of carbon and nitrogen preserved in teeth as an index of diet-an index that scales roughly with trophic level. Although we are unable to identify specific components of the diet, this limitation is balanced by the fact that we are able to retroactively characterize diet in every growth layer that accumulated throughout the lifetime of an individual.

We are using this approach to study a wide range of aspects of the diet of Odontocetes. One is to analyze individual and pod-wide dietary patterns through the analysis of tooth samples obtained from mass strandings. Because we know the time of death with a high level of precision, we can link the chemical characterization of diet to calendar year for the whole group. We have used this approach to study the 1979 mass stranding of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) at Florence, OR, and have obtained dietary data for some individuals going as far back as the 1940s.

The other main approach we have used is to piece together range-wide dietary information from teeth collected opportunistically over years or decades. While this doesn't necessarily give us the pod-specific resolution of the samples obtained from mass strandings, it allows us to cover a much broader geographic and temporal range. We are currently analyzing teeth from killer whales (Orcinus orca) from the eastern North Pacific. Thus far we have obtained samples collected between 1961 and 2006, spread geographically between southern California and the Central Aleutian Islands, AK, with all three eco-types represented. Our sample sizes for killer whales are still quite small, but as we build our database we will be able to test a wide range of hypotheses about dietary change throughout the latter half of the 20th Century.

sampled killer whale tooth

16 January 2008 - Uko Gorter, ACS/PS President
Whales in the Antarctic and Sub Antarctic

Uko will narrate a wonderful slide show of photos of whales in the Antarctic and Sub Antarctic. Blue whales, fin whales, humpback whales, killer whales, minke whales, and even beaked whales will pass the revue. Photos were taken during 2005-2006 IWC SOWER cruise (Southern Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research Programme). Photos by Keiko Segikuchi, Paula Olson, and Paul Ensor.

December 2007
no meeting

21 November 2007 - Paul Wade
North Pacific right whales: recent observations in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska

The North Pacific right whale, Eubalaena japonica, is one of the most endangered species of whale in the world. Since illegal takes by Soviet whalers in the 1960s sightings of right whales have been extremely rare in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. I will summarize historical information about North Pacific right whales, and describe the results of a satellite tagging project we conducted in the Bering Sea in 2004, where we discovered the greatest number of right whales seen since Soviet whaling days. I will also summarize recent encounters we have had with right whales in the Gulf of Alaska, where sightings of right whales have been extremely rare.

Paul R. Wade is a research biologist in the Cetacean Program (http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/nmml/cetacean/) at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries, in Seattle, Washington. He is also an Affiliate Professor at the School of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Washington. His research interests focus on the ecology and population dynamics of cetaceans, the conservation biology of marine vertebrates, and the use of modeling and quantitative methods, particularly Bayesian statistics, in conservation and management. He received a Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography researching the abundance and population dynamics of spotted and spinner dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific. He has worked on the population dynamics of gray, bowhead, right, and killer whales, as well as research on establishing sustainable levels of marine mammal bycatch in fisheries. He has extensive experience designing and conducting cetacean surveys from small boats, large ships, and airplanes. Currently his primary research is on mammal-eating killer whales in the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea. He is a member of the U.S. delegation to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, the Cetacean Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, and has participated in several ESA recovery and review teams (including Southern Resident Killer Whales).

17 October 2007 - Brad Hanson
Summer diet and prey stock identification of the fish-eating "southern resident" killer whales: Addressing a key recovery need using fish scales, fecal samples, and genetic techniques

Brad Hanson is a wildlife biologist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. Prior to moving to the NWFSC in 2003 he worked as a wildlife biologist at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory on a variety of projects. Brad received a Ph.D. from the University of Washington where he worked on the development of improved tag attachment systems for small cetaceans. He also holds an M.S. in Fisheries from the University of Washington and a B.A. in Zoology, also from the University of Washington. Brad is currently studying foraging and habitat use of Southern Resident killer whales and health assessment of harbor and Dall's porpoises.

19 September 2007 - Marla Holt
Investigating noise effects on the acoustic signals of Southern Resident killer whales

Marla will talk about the noise effects and sound exposure in our Southern Resident killer whale pods.


  1. Biology and Background of Southern Residents
  2. Review of Acoustical Concepts
  3. Noise effects of Sound Exposure
  4. Proposed Approach to Current Work

Dr. Holt earned her Ph.D. from University of California, Santa Cruz in June 2006 where she focused on spatial hearing in seals and sea lions including lab work on sound localization, spatial auditory masking, and field work on directional signaling in free-ranging northern elephant seals. Currently, she is a National Research Council (NRC) Postdoctoral Associate at the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center investigating acoustic risk factors in Southern Residents and noise effects on their vocal behavior.

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