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Whales & The Ocean

How do whales structure the ocean?

Speaker: C. Scott Baker, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Marine Mammal Program, Oregon State University
Telephone: Office: 541-867-0255; Mobile 541-272-0560
Date: Monday, June 5
Time: 4:00 p.m. Venue: GHOC Auditorium

On a global scale, most species of great whales are structured into oceanic populations or subspecies by continental landmasses and the seasonal opposition of the hemisphere. Within oceans, these populations are further structured by seasonal migration onto breeding grounds and feeding grounds, despite the absence of obvious geographical barriers. As an example, I will review the genetic evidence for the hierarchical structure of humpback whales into oceanic subspecies and, within oceans, into migratory ‘stocks’ and consider the forces shaping these divisions. I will then describe the complexity of migratory structure in connecting the breeding grounds and feeding grounds of humpback whales in the North Pacific and the strength of maternal fidelity to migratory destinations. This migratory structure has important implications for defining ‘Distinct Population Segments’ under the US Endangered Species Act. Finally, I will consider the relationship of this ‘migratory culture’ to individual prey preferences and regional differences in trophic roles of North Pacific humpback whales as they recover in numbers and respond to a changing ecosystem.

Biography and Summary of Current Research Interests
Scott Baker is Associate Director of the Marine Mammal Institute, Oregon State University, and Adjunct Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, New Zealand. He has been involved in research on whales and dolphins for more than 35 years, starting as an undergraduate student at New College in Sarasota, Florida, continuing with his PhD at the University of Hawaii and postdoctoral training at the Smithsonian Institution and National Cancer Institute with Steve O’Brien. Scott has acted as a delegate to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission since 1994, and is a member of the Cetacean Specialist Group of IUCN. From 2007 to 2017, he served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Heredity of the American Genetic Association.

Scott’s research includes both molecular and demographic approaches to evolutionary pattern and process in whales and dolphins, particularly their abundance, population structure, genetic diversity and species identity. His contributions to conservation genetics have ranged from identifying protected whales sold in Japanese and Korean fisheries markets, to the discovery of a new species of beaked whales based on DNA taxonomy. Scott has worked on whales and dolphins in the South Pacific since 1991, and is the Executive Director of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium, an international association of scientists active in research and conservation. In 2011, Scott was awarded a Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship to described genetic connectivity and isolation among small communities of dolphins found around islands of the South Pacific. Scott’s work on large whales continues with an ocean-wide description of the population structure of humpback whales in the North Pacific, a circumpolar description of the population structure of Antarctic blue whales and a global description of genomic diversity and phylogeography in sperm whales.

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