It was an exciting year for the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life. Here’s a wrapup of some of our favorite science stories of 2019.
(In no particular order)
Aerial Surveys Showcase Monument’s Incredible Biodiversity
Led by Dr. Orla O’Brien and Dr. Ester Quintana, our aerial surveys team spotted hundreds of marine mammals in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. During three surveys from July to November, the team identified multiple dolphin and whale species and even nutrient-rich whale poop that help phytoplankton populations thrive! The team also recorded its first sightings of Chilean devil rays and a humpback whale. These surveys reinforce the uniqueness and importance of the marine monument.
Conservation Update on Oceanic Whitetips
The Anderson Cabot Center’s Ryan Knotek, a Ph.D. candidate at UMass Boston’s School for the Environment, took part in a multi-institutional research effort to study oceanic whitetips and bluntnose sixgill sharks off Haiti’s coasts. A collaboration among OceanX, the Cape Eleuthera Institute, Florida International University, Microwave Telemetry, the Haiti Ocean Project, and local fishermen, this effort marks a major conservation milestone for these vital shark species. While this partnership has worked in the Carribean for many years, this was the first time the team explored Haitain waters.
MCAF Welcomes Newest Fellow, Dr. Isigi Kadagi
The Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF), a pipeline of emerging conservation leaders from around the globe, has supported ocean changemakers for over 20 years, and the Anderson Cabot Center announced the most recent MCAF Fellow, Dr. Isigi “Nelly” Kadagi, a fisheries scientist and educator working to promote sustainable fisheries along Kenya’s coast and the Indian Ocean region.
2019 Right Whale Report Card
This fall, the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium released its annual report card, which catalogues the health of one of the world’s most endangered whale species. While seven calves were born in 2019, the species’ numbers continue to decline. Due to fishing entanglements and ship strikes, scientists now believe that just 409 whales remain of the iconic species.
Climate Change Threatens Right Whale’s Food Supply
The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost any other body of water in the world, diminishing the region’s copepods, a small, free-floating crustacean that serves as prey for marine life all over the world. North Atlantic right whales rely on copepods as a critical food source, and their dwindling numbers may be responsible for decreases in right whale reproduction. Dr. Dan Pendleton, a research scientist at the Anderson Cabot Center, also found that as right whales follow copepods into new habitats, they may face a higher risk of ship strikes and fishing entanglements, the two primary threats to the species.
Inaugural MCAF Summit Brings Together Conservation Changemakers
To celebrate the Marine Conservation Action Fund’s 20th anniversary and the New England Aquarium’s 50th anniversary, we hosted the first-ever MCAF summit. This fall, 11 MCAF Fellows from Costa Rica to the Philippines came together at the Aquarium to share their research and advocacy work with each other, greater Boston, and our growing community of ocean champions.
Tracking Leatherback Sea Turtles
Climate change, fishing entanglements, pollution—sea turtles face an ever-growing list of human-caused threats. Thankfully, scientists like the Anderson Cabot Center’s Dr. Kara Dodge are dedicated to understanding and protecting these marine reptiles. Dr. Dodge is using advanced tagging techniques and videography to track sea turtle migrations and document the turtles’ behavior.
Bowhead Whale’s Baleen Shines Light on Entanglement Stress
The Anderson Cabot Center’s Dr. Rosalind Rolland identified a promising new method to examine chronic stress in bowhead whales. In a paper published in spring 2019, Dr. Rolland measured hormones in a bowhead’s baleen plate to understand the long-term impacts of fishing entanglements and environmental threats.
Shoring Up U.S. Shark Management
As shore-based, recreational shark fishing grows in popularity, our researchers have begun to examine its effects. This summer, Drs. Jeff Kneebone and Nick Whitney partnered with Dr. Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to launch a new study estimating survival rates of sandbar sharks after catch.
We look forward to more great science and research in 2020! As a nonprofit institution, the Anderson Cabot Center relies on the generosity of people like you. If you’d like to support another year of critical ocean science, please donate. Together, we can protect the blue planet.