Rare Beaked Whales Found

Rare Beaked Whales Found
Research trip pays off for WSU Vancouver researcher
Enrico Pirotta

A research trip to Ireland in November proved highly productive for Enrico Pirotta, a post-doctoral staff member working in Assistant Professor Leslie New’s lab in the department of mathematics and statistics. He was part of a team trying to characterize the whales’ habitat. The team spotted four separate groups of breaching whales on the sixth and final day of the cruise. “We confirmed that this is an important habitat for beaked whales in Irish waters,” Pirotta said. “This information will help inform appropriate management of expanding human activities in the region.” Pirotta, whose research focuses on assessing the consequences of human disturbance on marine mammal populations, also took part in efforts to characterize the food resources in this habitat.

Little is known about beaked whales. They spend up to an hour at a time diving to depths of up to 8,000 feet. Patricia Breen, chief scientist of the Marine Institute, said what was unusual was the number of sightings in such a small and specific area.

The survey was a collaboration between the National University of Ireland Galway, University College Cork, the Marine Institute, the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, Marine Conservation Research and WSU.

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Northwest Crimson & Gray is the semiannual magazine of WSU Vancouver, produced to highlight the WSU Vancouver community and higher education in Southwest Washington.