The Society for Marine Mammalogy Biennial Conference 2015

This week-long conference in December was full of impressive research that included 15 presentations about some of our recent findings.

science-tThere are, of course, the obvious jokes about pods of whales, or herds of seals gathering along the coast. In reality, it was an assembly of almost 3,000 eager scientists gathering in San Francisco to attend the 21st Biennial Meeting on the Biology of Marine Mammals. For a week from December 12-18th, 2015, they attended a series of specialized workshops and day-long scientific presentations.

Fuelled by their scientific curiosity and copious amounts of coffee, the Conference gave participants the opportunity to exchange the latest information on the marine mammals they work with and set up future collaborations. Consortium scientists were well represented, presenting the results of their latest studies in the form of both oral and poster presentations (see below for list of 15 papers presented).

For scientists, it is not just sufficient to conduct top-tier research; they also need to disseminate their findings in an effective fashion to other scientists, stakeholders, and the general public. Consortium researchers were also well represented among the awards for top presentations. PhD student Austen Thomas took home the Frederic Fairfield Memorial Award, which recognizes best use of new technology, for his work on diet quantification through fecal DNA. David Rosen also took home the “Wow Factor” Award for outstanding presentation, a talk given entirely in verse, which he reprised at the end of the awards ceremony (it is now posted on the MMRU facebook page).


MMRU researchers either made or were co-authors on the following 15 presentations:

  • Hot spots of harbour seal predation during the out-migration of salmon smolts. [Hassen Allegue et al]
  • Thirty years and counting: Prey abundance affects the birth rate and timing of pupping of South American fur seals in Peru. [Susana Cárdenas-Alayza et al.]
  • Engine efficiency: Does prey diversity matter more than prey quality for northern fur seals to assimilate energy? [Mariana Diaz Gomez et al.]
  • Northern fur seals as monitors of production changes. [Megan Foley et al.]
  • Bowhead whale foraging ecology in the Eastern Canadian Arctic: Implications for climate change. [Sarah Fortune et al.]
  • Consequences of changes in prey abundance on foraging efficiency in Steller sea lions. [Elizabeth Goundie et al.]
  • A novel coccidian parasite, Sarcocystis pinnipedi, caused significant mortality in grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) in the western north Atlantic. [Katherine Haman et al.]
  • Accelerometers can measure total and activity-specific energy expenditure in free-ranging marine mammals only if linked to time-activity budgets. [Tiphaine Jeanniard-du-Dot et al.]
  • Methodology for analyzing at-sea dive behaviour of northern fur seals in the Bering Sea. [Ruth Joy et al.]
  • Acoustic evidence of fin whale population structure in the eastern North Pacific. [Barbara Koot et al.]
  • Lost and found: Behavioral responses by bowhead whales near seismic surveys lead to underestimates of abundance. [Frances Robertson et al.]
  • Dining and Diving: The physiological interactions between digestion and food acquisition in a marine mammal, the Steller sea lion. [David Rosen et al.]
  • Nutritional and dietary influences on metabolic hormones in northern fur seals (Callorinus ursinus). [Cheyanne Ruben et al.]
  • In search of the diet analysis Holy Grail: Quantifying prey biomass using high-throughput scat DNA sequencing. [Austen Thomas et al.]
  • The decline of northern fur seals on the Pribilof Islands: Is it food? [Andrew Trites et al.]

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