FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22
Mystic Aquarium researchers have been studying animals in our care for over 30 years, pioneering new non-invasive techniques to study nervous and immune systems in addition to physiological research to understand diet and movement. For many years, we have also had the opportunity to study belugas in the wild.
I have led Mystic Aquarium and other scientists on annual visits to Alaska and other Arctic locations to monitor the health of beluga whales to determine the extent to which climate change, pollution, and other factors are impacting their well-being and conservation status.
In fact, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to the North Slope of Alaska since I was a graduate student back in the early 90’s and continue to do so today.
The work being done by Mystic Aquarium, comparing data on whales in human care and in the wild is helping to create a baseline of beluga whale health to determine the effects of human activities. The baseline information can be used to shape meaningful and worthwhile marine mammal protection regulations at the national and international level.
We could not accomplish this work if not for the welcoming generosity of the Alaskan natives. They have truly made me feel like a part of their community. And, because of that privilege, I have had the benefit of learning about these animals from the people who have lived with them for generations.
This summer I was invited to the nalukataq celebration. I had the honor of riding in fire truck during the parade to give candy to the children along the route. They even asked me to be a judge for the donut competition.
We as scientists are so fortunate to have the ability to learn from the native people and even more fortunate to have their collaboration on the research. Traditional knowledge paired with scientific knowledge is truly, what is needed to learn as much as we can about beluga whales.