Marine Mammals II


Marine Mammals II course will offer an advanced and in-depth course in marine mammal biology and ecology. While the “Introduction the Whales, Porpoises and Seals” (Intro) course provided a broad and introductory overview, this advanced course will cover more specific topics in more detail. For example, while the Intro course gave abroad overview of whale ecology, the advanced course could investigate the ecology of humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine.

Similarly, having covered conservation concerns in broad strokes in the first course, we will now focus on specific issues such as ship strikes or fisheries interaction. This new course will also allow us to explore topics that were not part of the Intro course, such as research methods, population estimation, physiology, and more political or ethical issues, such as whaling and captivity.  In keeping with the advanced nature of the course, daily activities will be based more on contributions from the teachers. There will be fewer lectures and instead, classroom activities will be based on seminar-style discussions and presentations from everybody,with appropriate time for preparation of these materials.

Ideally, we will spend significant amounts of time on the water to allow for a practical,hands-on experience. These boat excursions will serve specific purposes that will allow us to explore a range of scientific methods and tools. For example, one day could be used to find out how scientists count marine mammals, and then develop population estimates from these counts (a day trip to Mt. Desert Rock would be ideal for this).  On another day, we could focus on behavioral observations and later discuss what the observed behaviors could mean and how changes in those behaviors may be the consequences of human activities.

Similarly, the pedagogical aspects of this advanced course can, but do not have to, add to the work the teachers already completed for the Intro course. This can be accomplished through the development of more detailed course materials, the design of new teaching units, or the improvement of existing materials. It might also be possible that collaborations between teachers could be set up in advance, which would allow them to work as a team in completing a larger task.

Therefore, the goals of a Marine Mammals II course are as follows:
• introduce teachers to standard research methods in marine mammal science
• provide the opportunity to explore research methods on boat excursions
• experience how field observations translate into research findings in a range of topics
• discuss current topics in marine mammal science
• develop new teaching materials or improve/expand existing ones

At the end of the course, teachers will hand in, or present, work that they have completed during the course.  This could be:
• A draft research paper based on observations we made from the boat or the Rock
• A critique of a current scientific paper
• A paper on a topic we covered written for a popular science journal
• A presentation for a public lecture on a topic we covered

Prerequisites:  This course is designed as a continuation of “Introduction to whales, seals and porpoises” and as such, assumes some basic knowledge of marine mammal biology and identification. However, the Intro course is not a prerequisite to taking Marine Mammals II. Provided some basic knowledge in science and mammal biology, all requirements for this course can be met without having taken the Intro course.

• A new teaching unit/material            
•Improvements or expansion of an existing teaching unit.

There will not be a standard textbook for this course. Instead, we will focus on reviews on select topics and current scientific papers published in scientific journals. If you do want to explore some topics further or are planning to work on the course material in more detail later on, I recommend two books:
•  Berta, A. and Sumich, J.L. 2006. Marine Mammals - Evolutionary Biology, 2nd edition.    Academic Press. ISBN: 978-0-12-369499-7. Around $62 at  or   $84 at Academic Press (

• Hoelzel, A.R. (editor). 2002. Marine Mammal Biology - An Evolutionary Approach.   Blackwell Science Ltd. ISBN: 0-632-05232-5. Around $95 at or approximately $132 at the publisher's site (


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