June 15, 2022

Lynne Barre – NOAA Fisheries, West Coast Regional Office

Wed., June 15, 2022
Phinney Neighborhood
7:30 pm
doors open at 7

Southern Resident Killer Whales: An Update on NOAA's Species in the Spotlight ... more


2011-2012 Speaker Series

The Puget Sound Chapter of the American Cetacean Society would like to sincerely thank the following people for giving a presentation at one of our monthly Speaker Series meetings.

Click on any of the Abstract links for a summary and a brief bio about the talk Many abstracts also contain additional related resources.

Sept 2012 Speaker

16 May 2012 - Uko Gorter, Uko Gorter Illustrations

The DRAW of Whales: the 'art' of marine mammal illustration Abstract

Why and how does one become an illustrator specializing in whales and other marine mammals? Uko Gorter will talk about his unusual career choice (and the work of preceeding illustrators of natural history such as Olaus Magnus, Albrecht Dürer, Delahaye, Larry Foster, and more) and explain the allure and challenge of drawing whales. Uko will show samples of his work and highlight the wonderful relationship of working together with marine mammal researchers in depicting these enigmatic and beautiful mammals.

Born in Arnhem, Holland, Uko Gorter ended a seventeen-year career as a professional ballet dancer in 1997. Following in his father's footsteps, he then pursued his lifelong dream of becoming an illustrator. Uko enrolled in the School of Visual Concepts and the School of Realist Art, both in Seattle, WA.

Specializing in marine mammal illustration, Uko Gorter has traveled extensively to observe whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals in their natural environment. Uko's illustrations have appeared in scientific journals, books, magazines, web sites, and on interpretive signs. Uko is currently working on illustration for the upcoming publication of "Marine Mammals of British Columbia", authored by John K. Ford.

Uko joined the American Cetacean Society in 2001, and is currently president of the Puget Sound Chapter. He is also a member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy.

Uko Gorter - the draw of whales

18 April 2012 - Chrissy McLean and Libby Palmer Port Townsend Marine Science Center

Articulating Hope: A Community Effort Abstract

The talk will tell the story of Port Townsend Marine Science Center's Orca Project, including the imminent publication of a unique Orca Bone Atlas. The Orca Project is a community effort to tell the story of Transient killer whale CA 189, named Hope by local students. Hope stranded near Dungeness Spit in January of 2002 and quickly became noteworthy for having one of the highest levels of contaminants measured in a marine mammal.

Chrissy McLean, PTMSC Marine Program Coordinator
Chrissy McLean, PTMSC Marine Program Coordinator

I work with a wide variety of programs. I supervise collection and care of animals in our marine exhibit, hire and train Interns and AmeriCorps members, teach classes, conduct docent trainings, supervise our Marine Mammal Stranding Network, and work on our Orca Project.

Growing up on Puget Sound, I have spent much of my life exploring the beaches and playing on the water. I have worked in a variety of positions including classroom teacher, sea kayaking guide and naturalist, camp educator, Outward Bound instructor, and WDFW shellfish technician. I have a MiT and teaching certificate from City University and a BS in Environmental Education from Western Washington University.

Libby Palmer, PTMSC Orca Bone Project Manager
Libby Palmer, PTMSC Orca Bone Project Manager

As Orca Project Manager, Libby is responsible for overseeing an exciting octopus-like project with arms that reach out to include planning exhibits, K-12 education, lecture series, community events, designing new activities and coordinating work with our video and evaluation contractors and partners. The most fun so far? Learning to make silicone molds used to cast orca replacement teeth, working with talented and creative staff and AmeriCorps members, making a full size cardboard orca skeleton with a great group of teens, and witnessing and sharing the eagerness of PTMSC volunteers to jump into a new field.

Once upon a time, long ago, Libby and Judy D'Amore shared the excitement of being co-founders of PTMSC?-and they still share that excitement today.

21 March 2012 - Kelsey Moreno

Shipping Colisions with North Atlantic Right Whales Abstract

Kelsey Moreno has been fascinated by animals for all her life, and by cetaceans specifically since she was 12. She joined the American Cetacean Society's Puget Sound chapter in 2004 and became chapter secretary in 2008. For her high-school senior project in 2009, she assisted Donna Sandstrom with some work on the "Whale Trail" a series of land based whale watching sites throughout the Puget Sound and Washington coast. She is now a student at Western Washington University studying biology and math. Her future plans include research on wild cetaceans, particularly social structures, how they are formed and what internal and external factors affect them.

For one of her upper division courses last quarter, all of the students chose a current marine mammal conservation topic to research thoroughly, formulate a hypothetical study to in order to further investigate, and inform the other members of the class about. Kelsey chose to study the problem which commercial shipping poses to North Atlantic Right Whales, a highly endangered species which is endemic to US waters. At the March meeting she will be sharing the results of her investigation and her hypothetical study.

15 February 2012 - Juliana Hougton

Predator movement behavior changes as prey abundance increases: studies of mammal-eating killer whales in the Salish Sea from 1987 ? 2010 Abstract

The primary prey of mammal-eating killer whales in the Salish Sea, seals, sea lions, and porpoises, have undergone dramatic changes in population sizes in the last 25 years. Whether such changes in prey abundance have resulted in changes in predator movement behavior is unknown. We hypothesize that changes in prey abundance over time will result in changes in predator spatial use, occurrence and group size.

Focused studies of mammal-eating killer whale behavior in the area were undertaken from 1987-1993, and an extensive record of sightings with confirmed identifications is available from 2004-2010. Changes in occurrence across years, months, and subareas of the Salish Sea were examined as well as changes in group size, and in the groups using the area. Occurrence of mammal-eating whales had an increasing trend from 2004-2010 with seasonal peaks in April-May and August-September. From 1987-1993, there was one seasonal peak in occurrence in August-September.

More encounters occurred in the Strait of Juan de Fuca than other subareas, consistent with findings for 1987-1993. The most often observed group size was four whales for 2004-2010. This group size is larger than the size most often observed from 1987-1993, and group size also seems to be increasing over time from 2004-2010.

We suggest the whales are increasing use of the area due to increasing prey abundance. Changes in seasonal patterns of occurrence and the increase in group size between the two periods could be due to increased prey diversity as prey species occurrence varies seasonally and optimum foraging group size changes by prey species. Increased prey abundance could also relax the need to forage in the optimum group size and increase whale reproduction, leading to larger groups. These findings will provide greater insight into predator-prey relationships.

Juliana Houghton is a graduate student at the University of Washington in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. She is currently pursuing a master's degree under her advisor, Dr. Glenn VanBlaricom, and in collaboration with NOAA's NWFSC and Cascadia Research Collective. Her project will be to determine if and how vessel traffic corresponds to ambient noise levels received by Southern Resident killer whales as measured by DTAGs. Juliana first started working with NWFSC as an undergraduate intern in 2009. In March 2011, she graduated with two B.S. degrees from the UW in Aquatic & Fishery Sciences and Biology: Physiology. One of the projects she worked on as an undergraduate was organizing and analyzing mammal-eating killer whale sightings data from 2004-2010. Juliana recently received an ACS/PS student travel grant and was able to present the results from this project at the SMM 19th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in November 2011.

18 January 2012 - Cancelled

16 November 2011 - Marilyn Dahlheim (NMML) and Brad Hanson (NWFSC)

'Abundance and Trends of Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in Southeastern Alaska inland waters' & 'Return of the Harbor Porpoise to Puget Sound: Recent Increases in Abundance' ... Abstract

We are taking a closer look at two very different harbor porpoise populations. One in Southeast Alaska and the other in Greater Puget Sound. Marilyn Dahlheim, a wildlife biologist with National Marine Mammal Laboratory's Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program, will present her findings from studying Southeastern Alaska. Brad Hanson, an ecologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center will talk about the increases in harbor porpoise abundance in our waters.

Marilyn Dahlheim

Marilyn Dahlheim is a wildlife biologist with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory's Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program. Marilyn has conducted research on several cetacean species in places ranging from Mexico to the Arctic with a primary focus on abundance estimation, distribution, and movements. In 1989, she initiated studies in Southeast Alaska on cetacean biology and ecology, studies which have continued each year to the present. In particular, she has been involved with long-term studies on Southeast Alaska killer whales; she has published several papers addressing abundance, stock structure, contaminant levels, and dietary preferences of killer whales from this region. Recently, she has been working on population studies of harbor porpoise and Dall's porpoise in Southeast Alaska.

Before joining NMML in 1978, Marilyn worked at Marine World (Redwood City, California) with captive killer whales and bottlenosed dolphins. Between 1974 and 1978, she worked as a biologist/acoustician at the Naval Undersea Center in San Diego. She received her B.S. and M.S. in biology from San Diego State University. Her master's degree reported on signature information in the calls of captive killer whales. She obtained her Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia. Her dissertation was titled "Bioacoustics of the Gray Whale."

Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) on map of North America's NW Coast, Uko Gorter
Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) on map of North America's NW Coast Uko Gorter
'Abundance and Trends of Harbor Porpoise
(Phocoena phocoena) in
Southeastern Alaska inland waters'

Marilyn E. Dahlheim1, Alexandre N. Zerbini12, Janice M. Waite1, and Amy S. Kennedy1
1 NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Mammal Laboratory, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington, 98115-6349, USA
2 Cascadia Research Collective, 218 ½ W 4th Ave., Olympia, Washington, 98501, USA

In 1991, researchers from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) initiated harbor porpoise studies aboard the NOAA R/V John N. Cobb with survey coverage throughout the inland waters of southeastern Alaska.  Between 1991 and 1993, line-transect methodology was used to: 1) obtain population estimates of harbor porpoise, 2) establish a baseline for detecting trends in abundance, and 3) define overall distributional patterns and seasonality of harbor porpoise. Three surveys were carried out each year spanning spring, summer, and fall.  Annual surveys were continued between 1994 and 2005, however only two trips per year were conducted; one either in spring or summer and the other in fall.  Although standard line-transect methodology was not used, all cetaceans observed were recorded.  During this 12-year period, observers reported fewer overall encounters with harbor porpoise.  Although this raised concerns, our confidence in these data was low due to lack of quantification of effort, variable number of surveys per year, differences in methodology, and other factors that could influence these counts (i.e., differences in mean group sizes by season or year, differences in survey coverage and duration, and given that focal studies were aimed at humpback whales and killer whales). To fully assess abundance and population trends for harbor porpoise, we once again employed line-transect methodology during our cruises in 2006, 2007, and 2010. 

Harbor porpoise abundance and trends were examined for the entire study area and selected sub-areas of historical porpoise concentrations.  Results show an overall decline of harbor porpoise in southeastern Alaska inland waters. An inspection of the regional estimates indicate that harbor porpoise abundance and trends vary by area with a more pronounced decline observed in the southern range of the survey area near Zarembo and Wrangell Islands and Frederick Sound.  The reasons for the negative trends are not well understood and could include bycatch, a change in prey distribution, a decrease in survival or a shift in distribution due to habitat degradation, predation, or a combination of these factors. It is noteworthy that a greater decline was observed in areas where gillnet and purse-seine fisheries exist.

Brad Hanson

Brad Hanson joined the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in April of 2003. Previously, Brad worked as a Wildlife Biologist at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, WA. 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 an ecologist and is currently studying foraging and habitat use of Southern Resident killer whales and health assessment of harbor and Dall's porpoises.

Return of Harbor Porpoise to Puget Sound: Recent Increases in Abundance

Brad Hanson, John Calambokidis, Steven Jeffries, Jessie Huggins, Candice Emmons, Marla Holt, Dawn Noren, and Eric Ward

Harbor porpoise were reported to be the most commonly observed marine mammal in Puget Sound in the 1940s.  Although little information on their status is available from the next three decades, by the mid-1970s when greater attention began to be paid to marine mammal distribution and abundance in this region, harbor porpoise appeared to have all but vanished from the main basin and south Puget Sound.  A paucity of anecdotal reports, sightings during surveys, or strandings over the following two decades appeared to confirm that this species had essentially disappeared from this area.  While the reasons for their disappearance are unclear, several anthropogenic factors could have been responsible including mortalities in gillnet fisheries, impacts of contaminants, noise, and the degraded state of Puget Sound.

However, in the 2000s, numerous anecdotal reports and a few strandings were documented in the main basin and south Sound.  By 2009, multiple groups of harbor porpoise were being sighted throughout the year in a number of areas of Puget Sound including south of the Tacoma Narrows where historical records from the 1940s reported them as common.  Recent systematic boat surveys of the main basin indicate that at least several hundred and possibly as many as low thousands of animals are now present.

While the reasons for this recolonization are unclear, it is possible that changing conditions outside of Puget Sound, as evidenced by a tripling of the population in the adjacent waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands since the early 1990s, and the recent higher number of harbor porpoise mortalities in coastal waters of Oregon and Washington, may have played a role in encouraging harbor porpoise to explore and shift into areas like Puget Sound. The return of harbor porpoise to these regions of Puget Sound provides encouraging evidence that many of the underlying ecosystem components, e.g., forage fish populations, are functioning at a level sufficient to support these and other top predators. With their return to Puget Sound increased strandings of harbor porpoise have also been recorded in this area, indicating that a number of threats to the long-term viability of this population may still exist.

19 October 2011 - Ignacio Vilchis (SeaDoc Society)

Temporal trends in marine birds of the Salish Sea: What are the birds telling us? ... October

Harlequin duck by A Fritzberg
Harlequin duck by Alan Fritzberg

Growing up surfing in Baja California and Southern California, Nacho Vilchis has spent most of his life in or around the Pacific Ocean. Nacho completed his undergraduate studies at the University of San Diego, his first graduate program at the Universidad Catolica de Chile, and earned his Ph.D. from at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla California. He's spent thousands of hours surveying underwater in kelp forests in California and Chile, and months at sea studying tropical and temperate seabirds in open oceans off the Hawaiian archipelago, Clipperton atoll, Malpelo Island and the Galapagos Islands. Currently, he is doing his residency in the Pacific Northwest as a post-doctoral fellow with the SeaDoc Society, investigating long-term trends of marine birds in the Salish Sea.

21 September 2011 - Film Showing

Vaquita - Last Chance for the Desert Porpoise, documentary by Chris Johnson ... Summary

Tucked away in the northern extremities of the Gulf of California in Mexico, lives the entire world population of the Vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus). Its range is the smallest of any marine mammal - living in an area of less than 40 square miles. It has the dubious distinction of being the most critically endangered mammal in the world. In recent years human pressures have taken an enormous toll on the desert porpoise. Gill nets - nearly invisible fishing nets set in the water like curtains and often left unattended by coastal fishers primarily fishing for shrimp - are the greatest single cause of Vaquita mortality. Vaquita become entangled and drown when they accidentally swim into the nets.

Filmmaker Chris Johnson of earthOCEAN had unprecedented access for three years to one of the world's most grave marine conservation stories. In 2008, he joined the international scientific effort - Expedition Vaquita - to find and document any remaining animals in the region. He interviewed international conservation groups and met with local fishermen to find out what solutions, if any, could be found in time.

We will give a short into to the family Phocoenidae, the true porpoises, prior to the documentary film.

June 2011 Speaker

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