Marine Mammal Biology 1

Fall 2002



Where is the class?

Where is the Lab?

Sean Todd

Lecture Hall, Tues/Fri 9.35-11.00am

L1, Fri 1.00-3.55pm

Go to syllabus

Where/How to find me....



Turrets Annex (3rd floor)

Office Hours:

Mondays 10am - 12pm, or by appointment


ext. 265



Course web-page:


Course Description:

This course provides an introduction to the biology and natural history of marine mammals, specializing in species resident within the North Atlantic. Topics covered include phylogeny and taxonomy; anatomy and physiology; behavior; sensory ecology; and management/conservation issues. The course includes field trips to observe animals in their natural habitat and involves an introduction to basic field observation techniques. Students are expected to complete individual literature-based reviews to be presented in class. Assessment is based on this presentation as well as a written submission, together with a written exam. Intermediate. Prerequisite: Biology I, II. Class size limited to 16. Lab fee: $40. *ES*




2 term papers


Presentations to class


Class participation/Discussion/Debate


Laboratory work/participation


Final written exam



(available online at, or from Sherman's locally)

Biology of Marine Mammals, JE Reynolds and SA Rommel, 1999, Smithsonian Press.

…a number of other readings will also be placed on reserve: Go to reserved readings

Laboratory fee: $40-50.00, plus landing fee for MDR (optional)


Course Design

This course intends to provide an overview of marine mammal science through taxonomy, phylogeny, physiology, ecology and population conservation. It will also introduce the student to peer-review/primary literature and critical thinking skills through class discussions. The course will be front-loaded with labs that allow us to maximize good weather and availability of animals at the end of the feeding season.

Notes about the Course

Now that you have some basic foundational biology under your belt, we are going to spend some time specializing in a very specific group of animals. While your textbook is very comprehensive and up to date, the best way to familiarize yourself with this field is to read the peer-reviewed journal and book work. For that reason, there will be a lot of reading in this class. In addition to the textbook, students will be required to take on additional readings. These readings will be chosen to help whet your appetite, and prepare you for your individual literature reviews, to be presented to the class in the final week of term.

Labs for this class are difficult to design due to the availability of animals. Therefore, we will have to be flexible in our schedule to allow for periods of appropriate weather and water and tide conditions. Early on in the course I hope to take you out to Mount Desert Rock (MDR). If this occurs, I will ask you each for an additional 'landing fee' of $20 to cover fuel and food. If the MDR opportunity arises, you will need to be completely familiar with the guidelines and regulations for landing on 'the Rock'.

As a courtesy to myself and your classmates, please let me know if you are unable to attend a class.

The attached syllabus gives a rough guide to the sequence of topics we will be covering this term. Although I have assigned a textbook for this course, reading it will be secondary to the papers that I will assign each week at the library. It is important that you take the effort to read each week's readings before the week in which they are covered: this will help facilitate discussion.

There are five components to your evaluation in this course, as follows:

A major component of this course will be your term papers and the presentations that come from them. There will be two such papers. In the first, you will be assigned (randomly) a species of marine mammal to research. You will have one week to investigate this animal for a brief, 5-minute presentation to class at the end of Week 1. This presentation should include population status, distribution, general biology, life history, and currents threats to survival. A more in-depth, 3-4 page typed paper, double-spaced, based on the same topics, is due at the end of week 3. The second term paper is on a topic of your choice within the field of marine mammalogy (which must be approved by me, to ensure that you have chosen a topic that is appropriate and accessible). You must choose your topic by the end of week 5. A one-page summary of your essay plan (including key references) is expected by this date to aid in the planning and development of your topic. The final written submission is due last day of classes. In-class presentations of the second term paper are based on your written reviews, and will be slotted during labs and classes in the latter half of the term. Allow for a 20-minute presentation with 5-10 minutes for questions. Feel free to try out some of the more novel presentation techniques (MS Powerpoint, Corel Presentation). Questions and feedback at the end of your presentation are intended to be constructive and help you meld your written submission into the final product.

I expect and will promote lively debate in class and during labs. To this end, part of your assessment will be your performance in a class debate, entitled: Should we allow traditional marine mammal hunts? At the beginning of term we will begin by organizing pro- and con- teams. You will have the next 7 weeks to perform your research and organize your strategy as a team. The debate will be in week 8. Members of the community will be invited to attend.

Other class discussions will be based on the readings assigned in class. Come to class prepared to discuss these! The course is a sophomore college-level class&emdash;therefore, expect a lot of reading. It sometimes helps to organize ad-hoc reading groups to help understand the readings.

There will be some outdoor labs for which you must be dressed appropriately, ready for a day out on the ocean during the Fall. All outdoor labs are weather and tide dependent, so please be patient if a lab gets cancelled due to unworkable circumstances. Included in these labs is the possible trip to Mount Desert Rock.Attend all briefings concerning these labs.

Some of the other labs will involve dissections that can get messy and smelly. Wear old clothes that you don't mind throwing away. If you have ethical objections to such dissections, see me as soon as possible so that we can discuss your concerns.

The final class of the term will be an exam, in which you will be asked to write on a number of topics released to you beforehand (that is, you will have time to prepare your answers).

If you have a learning disability that I should know about, then see me as soon as possible so that we can make arrangements for alternative forms of assessment.

Finally, this course has an accompanying web page that provides links, notes on labs, data from labs (updated weekly), etc. Feel free to use this site to its maximum potential. If you have any recommendations about how to improve the site, let me know&emdash;its there for your benefit!