Welcome to March, and Spring seems to be just around the corner here in Washington. In spite of the cold spell we had in mid-February the flowers are starting to bloom, the birds are singing and even the temperatures are beginning to feel a little warmer...most of the time, at least!
We have also been fortunate enough to see lots of harbor porpoise and harbor seals during field time this past month, including an INCREDIBLE harbor porpoise party of hundreds of porpoises documented by our intern Trevor during a boat survey with our partners The Salish Sea School! (You'll notice that all the photos in this month's newsletter are from this awesome survey.)
Trevor and the other crew members witnessed around 300 very excited harbor porpoise engaging in lots of mating behavior and generally milling around near the Deception Pass area, with no obvious signs of foraging observed. This point is important, as it gives us some clues as to what the "purpose" of this large aggregation might have been (i.e. possibly not a feeding frenzy as much as a social get together). This type of large aggregation of harbor porpoise has been reported in the past, although typically groupings of 50-100 porpoises are observed...300 is definitely one for the books! We are so thrilled that Trevor and The Salish Sea School crew were able to document this incredible sight, and we can't wait to start diving in to identifying the individual porpoises observed.
Read on for more exciting news and upcoming events!
Harbor porpoise soup! These porpoise completely surrounded The Salish Sea School's boat; there were estimated to be around 300 individual porpoises present.
The Salish Sea School - S.E.A. Fins Program Starts Next Week
We are so excited to be part of The Salish Sea School's (TSSS) latest Winter program, Shoreline Exploration Adventures (S.E.A.) Fins starting next week, March 9th 2021! This shore-based program includes TSSS three pillars of influence: adventure, research, and action. But Fins is just one of TSSS’s S.E.A. programs: others include Feathers (focusing on birds), Salmon (including an awesome visit to a salmon hatchery!), Intertidal, and even Nature Calm (focused on mindfulness and nature appreciation). Find all these and more programs on TSSS website!
PacMam is thrilled to be involved with S.E.A. Fins, where you will learn more about the marine mammals of the Salish Sea, and may even get to help PacMam researchers look for marine mammals!
Available sessions are aimed at K-1st graders and 2nd-5th graders, and span two days for 1.5 hours each day. There are both AM and PM sessions to make sure everyone can attend. The S.E.A. Fins costs $25 per student per 2-day session, and sessions are filling up fast so make sure to head over to TSSS website now to sign up! More sessions will be opening up soon so make sure to subscribe on the TSSS website to be alerted of new class dates.
Check out The Salish Sea School's various S.E.A. Programs, and join PacMam researchers for the Fins program to learn more about marine mammals of the Salish Sea!
PacMam Podcast - Let Us Know What YOU Want to Learn About!
Have you participated in our "Marine Mammal Highlights" poll on Instagram yet? If not, we want to hear from you!
Join PacMam Researchers Cindy, Kat and our Intern, Trevor Derie, on the PacMam Podcast as we dive into fun and engaging discussions about marine mammals and current environmental issues. We have had a great response to our "Marine Mammal Highlights" series, this year focusing on one specfiic marine mammal species each time. If you haven't gotten involved yet, make sure you're following us on Instagram(@PacificMammalResearch) and watch our Instagram stories to cast your vote and tell us which marine mammal species you want to learn about next!
So far we've discussed the Dall's porpoise and Sei whale, and will be learning all about the Minke whale on Friday's podcast. Stay tuned for our next poll and make sure to let us know what you want to hear about.
Find the PacMam Podcast on Anchor.fm, iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen - make sure to leave us a comment and a review!
Have you participated in our PacMam Podcast polls on Instagram? Make sure to get involved, we want to hear from you!
In The News
Killer Whale CSI: Have you ever read a news article about a cetacean death and wondered how researchers actually find out how it died? Well this fantastic article gives you all the details of how - and why - scientists determine cause of death in cetaceans, specifically orcas (or killer whales). It also gives a sobering view into how difficult it can be to determine how these beautiful animals died, and if we can figure out cause of death, why it's imperative that we pay attention! Click to read Killer Whale CSI on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound's website.
Mass Stranding of Dolphins, Mozambique: Not to be too morbid, but we thought it was important to include this update about another mass stranding of dolphins, this time spinner dolphins, along Africa's Mozambique coast in late February 2021. Two stranding events, one after another, occurred in Bazaruto Archipelago National Park and, despite valiant efforts of the Park rangers and community members, claimed the lives of 111 dolphins. Although there may be a number of reasons why these dolphins stranded, so far there have been no causes identified except to rule out any fisheries-related causes. Read more details here.
Cetacean Genes Resist Cancer: A recent paper from Tejada-Martinez et al., published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, has found that genes regulating DNA damage, tumor spread, and the immune system were positively selected for in whale and dolphins species. So what does that mean? Well, that means that cetaceans may be able to effectively resist cancer! Although more study is needed it is possible that scientists could study these specific genes in cetaceans to devise more effective cancer-fighting or cancer-resisting drugs or treatments. Read the full (and fascinating!) article here.
This picture of a curious harbor seal is a little deceptive: it shows the full head and body of one seal (right), and the tail of another (left)! It really highlights the differences in coloring that harbor seals can have, from very dark grey/black to almost white.
As we mentioned earlier, make sure you're connected with us on social media: Facebook ("Pacific Mammal Research - PacMam") and Instagram (@PacificMammalResearch) to stay up to date with PacMam and participate in our polls.
Subscribe to the PacMam Podcast on Anchor or wherever you like to listen. Don't forget, you can also watch our "Marine Mammal Highlights" series on our YouTube Channel.
If you'd like more information about us, what we do, and/or would like to help support us in doing it through giving a donation, head over to our website. Every donation made goes straight back into funding our various programs, and in these difficult times we need your help more than ever to keep these going.
Have a wonderful start to Spring (or Fall) and we'll see you again in April!