Category Archives: cetaceans

From Colombia to Galapagos to California and OSU

New information breakthroughs for me are exhilarating. Working with all that whale data is like looking into the dark with a flashlight. It’s work that is able to contribute new information to the field.

— OSU Whale Researcher, Daniel Palacios

Whaling’s first commercial iteration with harpoons started in Japan around 1570. With many more nations participating in killing whales for exploitation over the proceeding centuries – seeking oil, blubber, flesh, and other body parts – by the turn of the 20th Century, many of the 90 species of whales were on a steep decline, endangered or near extinction.

For one Oregon State University research faculty member of the Marine Mammal Institute, the cetacean is his passion, his life. Daniel Palacios was intellectually and spiritually connected to cetaceans after seeing the iconic humpback whale banners and picket signs deployed on Earth Day, while watching religiously the series, The Under Sea World of Jacques Cousteau, and through regaling in his own country’s mythological Amazon biosphere.

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Two-parts passion, one-part inspiration, and three-parts intellectual drive propelled him to where he is today – researching the pathways, habitats and health of earth’s largest animals.

The harpoon this 50-year-old scientist throws is outfitted with both a satellite tracking tag and small biopsy plug extractor to harvest not whale meat, but rather to collect valuable data on what whales do, what they eat, where they go, and for future research concerns, how well their overall physical health is.

Palacio’s been working with teams collecting the information on sperm, humpback, gray, blue and other whale species to determine their range and pelagic journeys throughout the Pacific coastal upwelling, all the way down to the Gulf of California.

“One of my drivers is discovery and knowledge, what you could say is strict hardcore science . . . pure analytical and statistically important science,” he tells me while we share coffee at a café in the Wilder community near OCCC.

Early Dreams Bring a Boy from South America to the Central Oregon Coast

His love and interest in science started young – five or six years of age while growing up in landlocked Bogotá. His parents (an engineer father and lawyer mother) bought him encyclopedias and books on animals. “I was continuously reading about African animals. I was mesmerized.”

He stresses living in an urban and cosmopolitan capital city was like being worlds away from his own country’s swath of Amazon rainforest.

The Amazon jungle would have been like Africa to me growing up in a big city. Our world was so disconnected from the natural world. We had no sense of the ocean or the Amazon.

Some 45 years later — traversing his early curiosity attending a Catholic school in a city of 7 million, to now, with all those titles and associations from OSU (“PhD/ Endowed Associate Professor in Whale Habitats/ Whale Telemetry Group/ Marine Mammal Institute and Dept. of Fisheries & Wildlife”) — Palacios has kept his eye on the proverbial prize of being a marine scientist.

He states his parents sacrificed to put him and his two sisters into the best schools they could afford. His grandparents came from humble beginnings in rural Colombia not far from Bogotá. He reminisces about this K-12 experience where he was taught math, physics, and liberation theology – a philosophy that measures helping the poor and understanding the plight of the underprivileged tied to capitalism’s great class divide as part of religious enlightenment.

This Calasanz school from the Escolapios Order bore the name of the Spanish founder who went to Rome in the 1500s to teach the very privileged, and on his daily crossing back over the Tiber River after teaching these rich youth, saw the poverty and disadvantaged circumstance of the masses.

In Bogotá, they would send us to a sister school for the poor and we’d help teach the kids. Even though it was a religious school, going to college my first two years was a walk in the park. We were really well prepared by the priests.

Meeting of the Whale Minds

Currently, Daniel spends most of his time analyzing all the data from satellite tags and biopsies. He likes the vigorous, meticulous nature of this work, even though 90 percent of his time is not working with whales directly in their habitat.

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I first met Daniel at the American Cetacean Society monthly meeting in Newport. It was his 15 minutes of fame with his Power Point in front of a packed room at the public library. “This is actually the second time I have presented to the ACS. Something like 17 years ago, in Monterey.”

Monterrey was his home for more than a decade, and his boss was NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) as he was tasked to answer why these humpbacks are in abundance in this upwelling ecosystem of Northern California, and to determine their migratory patterns and territorial range.

My dream was to work with these people studying this classic upwelling ecosystem.

As he shows slides and wonderful images of humpbacks to us naturalists who are interested in science, yes, and informed but not steeped in hard science, he states he understands the allure of the charismatic whale.

“All these people who have a strong affinity to whales are genuinely interested in their plight which makes funding the OSU foundation and Endowment easier.” It turns out one of Palacios’ mentors, OSU’s Bruce Mate, was a forerunner in getting the general public to support their work. That donor base serves as a buffer facilitating Palacios and others to continue their work collecting and analyzing so much data from satellite tags.

He later tells me that while he has authored all these professional journal articles (75) in periodicals such as Marine Mammal Science (through the Society of Marine Mammalogy), he realizes few read these rarefied articles; whereas, the real passion and interest in his field rests with whale watchers, naturalists, eco-tourists and writers.

Palacios counts his lucky stars and serendipity in his life: “I am at a place beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve received so much support, and where I’ve gotten to is due to the generosity of many people.”

If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.

-– David Suzuki, Canadian scientist and documentary producer

The price of ecosystems and individual species is difficult to access, and for most ecologists, no amount of monetary exchange can replace, say, a Military Macaw parrot or whale shark. However, we ecologists do call a forest or wetlands an “ecosystem” that provides invaluable services to the entire life web, to include humans.

A healthy coastal ecosystem with vibrant forests, clear streams and non-diked wetlands provide humans billions of dollars of “free life-giving/saving services” – clean air and water, healthy soils, pure estuaries, unmolested bays, erosion prevention.

There’s even a formula of sorts to put a price to a whale.

“Anyone know how much a whale is worth?” Palacios asks the ACS crowd tongue-in-cheek. There are a few bids from the crowd of a few thousand here, eighty thousand there for the going rate of a humpback whale.

According to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) one whale’s biological value is two million dollars over its lifetime.

Daniel rattles off the capitalist values – “Considering the whale watching and tourism industry and the fact they are the biggest animals on earth they are amazing at combating climate change.” They consume carbon in the form of plankton and krill. Once their feces fall to the bottom of the ocean, it’s sequestered carbon that doesn’t make it into the atmosphere. When the whale dies, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Each is thousands and thousands of pounds, and both the whale poop and decaying bodies serve as nutrients for plankton and other myriad of marine life.

The Odyssey

During Daniel’s final year of college in Cartagena, he was hunting for a doctoral program in the USA – such as Scripps or Wood Hole. His life at a young age is a tale of serendipity.

He ended up in Panama, waiting for the Odyssey — a 93-foot scientific sailboat loaded with research equipment ready for heavy-hitters from around the world heading to the Galapagos. Daniel wanted to board that ship as a scientist-in-training. Big names in whale research like Roger Payne were scheduled to board the vessel.

They laughed when I asked if I could go with them to the Galapagos. ‘You just show up and expect us to take you with us?’ That’s what they told me.

However, after Odyssey’s trip from Key West to Panama, it was moored in a slip in order to receive parts and repairs. The young graduate was enlisted to help chip paint from the hull.

I had never been on a sailboat before, and this was an operation on an entirely different scale. I worked on the boat with the scientists-slash-crew for two weeks, and it was the day they were leaving when they told me I could come with them.

Their caveat was the science team would drop Daniel off in the Galapagos and he’d have to find his own way home.

This was a diverse crew, and while they motored to the Galapagos, they conducted oceanographic research.

They embraced me, and indicated I was a good crew member. But I had a secret weapon: I spoke Spanish.

The Odyssey was stopped and boarded by the Colombian Navy since they were sailing along known drug-smuggling routes. When the ship arrived at the islands, it turned out they had to obtain many permits to work in a highly-regulated marine reserve.

Every day the scientist-slash-interpreter “kid from Colombia” met with the officials in the National Parks office and Ecuadoran Navy to get the paperwork in order.

After a month delay, the Odyssey was on its way studying the sperm whales in this incredible ecosystem as well as tackling other oceanic matters. Daniel now was part of the crew; many of the premier scientists who had been scheduled to be on the Odyssey had to delay their scientific journeys.

Daniel learned how to construct a harpoon-staging platform as well as integrate hydrophone technology so the team could track sperm whales vis-a-vis their calls.

It was a 24/7 operation. Amazing minds, amazing ecosystems, and a real journeyman scientist’s apprenticeship propelled Palacios to seek more and more scientific pursuits.

It’s a Small-Small World in Marine Mammal Research Circles

That Odyssey adventure also parlayed into a job in Massachusetts with the non-profit Whale Conservation Institute. That was his first foray into the United States. He credits his mobility and lack of family responsibilities to his flexibility to move where the research was.

He did work in the mid-1990s with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla. That was part of a huge NOAA project on eastern Pacific dolphin recovery.

Scripps is the Harvard of marine sciences, with Woods Hole and Texas A & M a close second and third as the best rated schools in ocean studies. However, Daniel said he did not come from a well-off family, and Scripps expected all PhD students to have their own scholarships/grants and per diem sources to attend.

That Odyssey trip again paid off. Bruce Mate was the lead scientist Daniel worked with on sperm whale tagging, and he then contacted the Colombian to see if he wanted to get into OSU’s marine mammal program, ranked in the top five in the US.

The experience at OSU I believe was better for me than if I had gotten accepted to Scripps.

Leave it to magic of the Odyssey to continue on in another scientific expedition – five years around the world with a number of international scientists participating in some deep research. Daniel says that many of the leading marine mammal people had once been an Odyssey fellow or crew-slash-scientist.

Ironically, an Australian couple, Chris and Gen, were crew members and communications experts – writing stories and producing blogs and interview pieces. He said they have considered writing a book on the Odyssey’s odyssey.

I’m still meeting people in my field who had been on the Odyssey in some part of the world.

Diversity of Ecosystems, Diversity of Scientists

That PhD in oceanography came from OSU, but in 2003 he was called back to research whales at NOAA studying their presence in the upwelling ecosystem of North California. That was a 12-year sojourn.

Again, in 2013 Bruce Mate lured Daniel Palacios, PhD, back to OSU with a research professorship. The work involves advancing research in whale tracking and data analysis.

The grant he works under is through the auspices of the US Navy, which is conducting more training and development activities in whale territory. Federal legislation puts restrictions on some of the activities in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

As is the case in a Capitalistic society, there are many exceptions to “do no harm scientific principles,” when so-called national security issues are put ahead of everything else. “Biological acceptable limits” and monitoring are what guide the Navy’s contract with OSU and other colleges concerning whales being affected by military activities.

Sounds, bombs, boat and ship traffic, radar, and more do play roles in altering whale behavior, physiology and general habitat conditions.

Diverse ecosystems, diverse species in and diverse intrusions on their natural world are both intriguing and challenging to confront. On the personal front, Daniel and I delve into his own perplexing identities while growing up a male in machismo Colombia.

“I knew as a small child I was different,” he said, emphasizing that he was feeling like he was attracted to males around age five or so. He comes from a culture where being gay is the worst thing a man could be, bringing “huge shame and guilt to a gay.”

As is the case in many histories of homosexuals confronting that bigotry and bias against being queer, gays end up marrying as heterosexuals, even raising families with female wives. Daniel did meet a woman at OSU when he was a student, and she became his wife. Almost six years into the marriage, he came out to her.

She was (and still is) supportive, but she insisted on a divorce. That was 2004 when he came out, and the guilt of having ruined the life of someone he loved and all the other issues associated with living a closeted life required “a lot of therapy.”

Even though his parents are conservative and traditional, they’ve been very supportive, he says.

He expressed to me on several occasions how we all are evolving creatures, and that decision to live his life as a gay man means he can be authentic.

With that, we talked about the fact there were no role models in his field for gay scientists. In the lead up to a 2015 conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, he broached the idea of having a social mixer on the agenda for LGBTQA scientists.

I told one of the scientists who happened to be lesbian that the Society doesn’t provide any notion of being accepting of homosexuals in their field.

The networking mixer for queers was announced, and there were over 100 people who attended it – LGBTQA and allies.

When an aspiring marine mammal scientist doesn’t see people like him in the field, it’s hard to be fully realized, he states.

There is a deep spiritual need to see people like myself in my profession. My sexuality has zero relevance to the science I am conducting; nevertheless, how I identify myself definitely defines who I am. Those walls we build around ourselves when we are gay – the struggle and insight, too – when they begin to fall, there is a feeling of liberation, and becoming fully realized as a person.

We decided to do a bit of a question and answer interview to end this story of a Colombian whale expert who is now a US citizen working on protecting the enigmatic humpback (known as the songster whale) in our little corner of the world – Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Whale photo provided by Craig Hayslip

Interview

Paul Haeder: If you had to put down your philosophy of life in a sentence or two, what would it be?

Daniel Palacios:  As far as I approach things, I’m drawn toward excellence and beauty in nature. I find satisfaction in giving my best and in what I learn through the process of creating and discovering, especially if it fulfills my curiosity toward the natural world.

PH:  Science and the arts can’t be separated. I can give you a piece, “A Faustian Bargain,” by Gregory Petsko —  The quote is below, and the highlight is what I want you to riff with, sir!

‘Science unleavened by the human heart and the human spirit is sterile, cold, and self-absorbed. It’s also unimaginative: some of my best ideas as a scientist have come from thinking and reading about things that have, superficially, nothing to do with science. If I’m right that what it means to be human is going to be one of the central issues of our time, then universities that are best equipped to deal with it, in all its many facets, will be the most important institutions of higher learning in the future.’

DP: I wholeheartedly agree that science is best when considered in the context of the humanity that produced it, and the increasing capacity and demand by the general public to absorb science is evidence of that. I also agree that those universities that embrace this notion will play an important role in the future, but at the same time I’m concerned that there’s relatively few universities that are equipped for this, and also that those that are may not reach outside their walls unless they make very concerted efforts, such that these gains would mostly benefit a few people.

PH: What do you believe the biggest challenges in whale ecology and whale survivability will be in the next two decades, and explain.

DP: With the exception of a few whale species that remain critically endangered, most whale populations have been slowly recovering since commercial hunting stopped in 1986. Today the biggest challenges to whale conservation are largely the same ones that affect marine ecosystems as a whole: chemical and noise pollution, shipping, habitat degradation, and over-harvesting of marine resources for human consumption. These are much more pervasive and complex problems, and addressing them requires the engagement and participation of all segments of society.

PH: How can your work, and Bruce Mate’s and others’ help “manage” the multiple jurisdictions with so many competing Exclusive Economic Zones and national agencies and economic drivers in the mix?

DP: Whale migrations truly exemplify the requirements of marine fauna for vast expanses of habitat, often covering an entire ocean basin. Although some countries have made good progress in protecting these species in their national waters, once they cross into another jurisdiction or into international waters those protections no longer apply. Therefore, there’s a need for developing policy at the highest levels to achieve adequate conservation across jurisdictions. These policies are best developed through regional, international, and intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations’ Convention on Migratory Species, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or the International Whaling Commission, among others. There are several such initiatives currently underway — one example being the ‘Migratory Connectivity of the Ocean’ project, and we are engaged with them by providing tracking data and results for informing these processes.

PH: Give me the typical funder and donor elevator speech on the value and importance of funding marine mammal research, specifically, on whales.

DP: We start from the basis that, owing to their majestic beauty, whales have always captured the human imagination like few other species. But for us scientists, whales have a number of unique biological adaptations and behaviors that we’re just starting to understand. Through the use of cutting-edge technology we’re making fascinating scientific discoveries about them, which benefit all of humanity. And this information often contributes to efforts to improve their protection as well. For example, using satellite tracking we can follow them on their long migrations and determine where they go, how they get there, and what risks they may encounter along the way. Management agencies require this information in order to assess the status of the species and to enact spatially explicit conservation measures.

PH: What advice would you give a young aspiring marine scientist, say, from Colombia or another Latin American country with even fewer options in their respective countries to pursue the work you are now doing? What do you recommend their pathway, both intellectually and practically, be?

DP: Believe in your dreams, keep an open mind, and have a steely determination and things will start turning around — not always exactly in the way you envisioned, but opportunities will present themselves. These days access to knowledge is no longer a limitation thanks to the internet, but dedicated academic study and networking are still critical requirements to succeed and become an established scientist. Joining and being active in a professional society is helpful, especially for making connections with colleagues as well as for benefiting from mentoring and other programs intended for young scientists as well as those from developing nations.

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Gray Whales Are Dying: Starving to Death Because of Climate Changele Carcass Ready for Articulation

Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is smaller than a hare’s? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of Herschel’s great telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of hearing? Not at all. Why then do you try to ‘enlarge’ your mind? Subtilize it.

–Hermann Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 74 – “The Sperm Whale’s Head”

Note: A very short piece coming from me today? WTF?

Yah! I write about this fellow because he has been a part of curriculum development and delivering education — hands on — for many many years. We’re talking about 40 years, almost.

Bill Hanshumaker, a senior instructor at the Hatfield Marine Science Center and chief scientist for Oregon Sea Grant.

So, even four years back, Bill was working on jellyfish explosions in these parts — Central Oregon Coast. Explosions of jelly fish, hmm, not good:

Striking blue sea creatures, Velella velella, have washed up by the thousands on Oregon beaches including at Seaside, Manzanita, Astoria and Rockaway Beach in recent days, tourism officials report.

The small jellyfish-like animals normally live out at sea, floating on its surface. But every spring, thousands get blown by strong westerly winds onto the sands of Oregon, California and Washington and die. OREGONIAN.

When strong westerly winds blow over the Pacific coastline, Velella velella are swept by the thousands onto beaches including those at Seaside and Manzanita. They are often called By-the-wind Sailors, because they have their own small sails and move with the wind.

I write A LOT about education, how broken it is at the PK12 level (come on, that’s the lifeblood of development, not college and universities). Colleges are cesspools of idiocy, too, but where oh where does it all start?

Poverty, injustice, and reading comprehension issues go hand in hand.

― D. WatkinsThe Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America Here. DN.

Unfortunately, the youngest person to listen to Bill Saturday (April 20) was 40, maybe? Most were past retirement, a few in their fifties, me, 62, but still working, teaching PK12 students in many many schools here on the Oregon Coast. The rest way into their 60s and 70s. This fellow has enthusiasm that is catching and how dare we as a society that we have these silos, man, and we have no will to get many generations together.

Here’s my piece, hoping it ends up in the Newport Times News, like this one: Experts paint sobering potential for sea change

Also here, Op Ed News. But here, the piece:

Lurking in Yaquina Bay: Blue Whale Carcass Ready for Articulation

The quietude of the Central Oregon Coast – sans the tourists/visitors – is an illusion when it comes to marine sciences and the remarkable gravitas OSU Hatfield Marine Sciences Center and Oregon Coast Aquarium have on researching the oceans and our discussions around the good, bad and ugly tied to them.

It’s not difficult to get 26 cetacean (whales, dolphins) and pinniped (seals, sea lions) adherents in a room at the Newport Library on a Saturday morning (April 20) to listen to one of OSU’s best talk about marine mammals and acoustic research,  Dermestids (or flesh-eating beetles) and the state of species in ever-changing meteorological and ecological conditions tied to our oceans.

The Oregon chapter of the American Cetacean Society invited Dr. Bill Hanshumaker to present his talk titled,  “How do we know what we think we know about marine mammals?” He brought skulls of whales, dolphins and sea lions; vertebrae of a blue whale; baleen from whales and teeth from orca and other toothed whales species; and decades of experience as a scientist.

The 67-year-old Hanshumaker is the CSI guy at the Hatfield; he’s given more than 50 public presentations, some of which included “cool stuff” like dissecting sharks at public gatherings and articulating skeletons of huge – the largest species in the world – blue whales.

Image result for whale bone articulations

“Science is a dynamic process, not stagnant,” Bill Hanshumaker said. “Most people look at science as a collection of facts or a belief system. It’s much more than that.” Of course, coming up with a hypothesis – sometimes referred to as WAG (wild-assed guess) – allows for testing it, looking for patterns and demonstrating a willingness to change course.

Part of changing course, according to the scientist, includes using new tools, or old ones, to go at a problem in a new way. Observation of whales performing actions and reacting to their environment is one good step toward making a WAG and then testing it. However, we need multiple tools and systems to conduct good science.

Hanshumaker, who was with OMSI for 17 years, highlighted that he is responsible for all those “articulated” skeletons throughout the Portland museum. His current work is on the way out, as he retires in a few months, but he brought to us work by Bob Dziak whose research with hydrophones determines many aspects of whale behavior tied to their own acoustic calls and language.

Killer whales in particular vocalize more when hunting salmon, tuna or sharks, because their prey aren’t hearing the sounds and the killer whales are probably communicating signals for the pod members to act in concert in getting at the food. When approaching marine mammals, stealth is more important, so that ecotype of killer whale will not vocalize when on the hunt.

It’s the mother who teaches killer whale offspring to go for salmon or go for seals.

Image result for orca whales in the wild
Image result for orca whales in the wild

He’s looking at all the noise – called ambient and background noise – in the ocean to determine what is natural and what can be adaptable. Toothed whales like orca and sperm whales have high frequency calls, whereas baleen whales like humpbacks and grays have lower pitched (frequency) calls.

Calls from blue whales may signal mating language rituals; however, the ship traffic in the oceans disturbs communication abilities, he stated, which includes breeding habits. When September 11, 2001 occurred, all ship traffic was halted, and previously placed hydrophones picked up more communication calls from blue whales, leading to the hypothesis they were using calls for mating.

The whale enthusiasts listened and watched the scientist explain sound propagation, cavitation noise (propeller sounds), and which methods of noise reduction will help whales and dolphins live in a less chaotic world of hundreds of thousands of ships crisscrossing their habitats daily.

Interestingly, OSU got the job of designing three new research vessels – with green technology incorporated, including noise reduction propellers that are more fuel efficient, Hanshumaker stated. The design also includes optimized hull form, waste heat recovery, LED lighting, and variable speed power generation.

The National Science Foundation selected Oregon State largely because of the university’s deep research history, active science programs and leadership through the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center. The current research vessel OSU uses, Oceanus, is almost 45 years old and has outlived its scientific capabilities.

Part of the research tied to acoustics is only possible through fully funding marine sciences programs to include these research vessels as floating laboratories and living classrooms. For instance, studying acoustic recordings in the wild can tell scientists how different ecotypes of one species have much different “dialects” versus other ecotypes. Humpback whales, like other species, have different dialects so when groups congregate, differentiation lowers chances of inbreeding: which is the bane of all species collapsing.

Our Central Oregon Coast is mostly visited upon (90 percent of whales) by the iconic gray whale, which is a marine animal success story, compared to the Atlantic coast where the grays were hunted to extinction. One reason for Pacific grays’ success is that the Mexican government designated three significant breeding and calving bays along the Baja Peninsula as protected gray whale reserves.

One example (of many) illustrating “genetic bottlenecks” is the elephant seal along the California coast. “In 1910 they thought it was extinct, so a scientist shot what he thought were the last surviving eight,” Hanshumaker said. The reality was there were still elephant seals living in secluded habitats, but unfortunately, the diversity pool is now so limited that all offspring are identical twins.

Interesting topics he brought up included stripping marine mammal carcasses of muscle and meat, while still preserving connective tissue and even the smallest bones with those beetles. Hanshumaker says a new, quicker way has been developed:  horse manure compost pits are dug and the carcass covered so all bugs, bacteria and larvae can work in concert to do the job beetles and fly maggots do.

For Hanshumaker – like most holistic-thinking scientists I’ve interviewed over the course of almost four and a half decades – he posits all things connect in nature. I use this John Muir quote to illustrate that for students I teach:

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.

When we see an otter around here, we have to be reminded it’s a river otter, since marine otters no longer inhabit Washington and Oregon waters. In fact, in the Aleutian Islands, sea otters were wiped out by a pod of killer whales. No sea otter in a habitat means sea urchin populations explode. Which in turn destroy bull kelp forests since urchins eat kelp and otters each urchins. Those kelp habitats are like sea nurseries for hundreds of fish species. Fewer places for juvenile fish to grow protected means less fish in nets and on hooks.

“Fishermen do not want sea otters returned because they see them as competitors, eating fish. Kelp beds will help increase the numbers of fish,” Hanshumaker stated, Science and data and field evidence are not enough to stop “fishermen believing what they want to believe.”

The irony is kelp needs rocky areas to anchor and root into. Trying to reintroduce kelp and marine otters would be fruitless since those rocky bottom “holds” are now covered up with sand years after the kelp forests’ disappearance.

Back to the whale lurking in a net in Yaquina Bay: It was struck by a ship, it’s 80 feet long, and it’s been at the bottom of the bay with a net around it going on three years. Hanshumaker says there is still flesh on the carcass. Plans for this scientist to get the bones stripped of all flesh and then articulated as one skeleton are on hold because the marine sciences classroom that is being built at Hatfield has new architectural plans that will not accommodate the blue whale to hang anywhere.

Image result for whale bone articulations Hatfield Oregon

The Siletz casino in Lincoln City doesn’t want the skeleton, he stated. The scientist thinks the Lincoln County fairgrounds building will be the skeleton’s final resting place.

Image result for hanging skeleton articulation Hatfield Marine Sciences
Bruce Mate of Oregon State University is seen with a Minke Whale skeleton on campus. Blue Whale in Central Oregon he’s working on.

Who knows where this CSI scientist will end up since he is retiring from OSU this year. There’s no doubt about it, though, Bill will be right there if another big animal washes ashore. The amount of institutional (science) memory he will take with him is a whole other article about where the sciences are heading as Baby Boomers retire.

**end of article**

Back to the title — The scientists and the government shills will all be writing white paper after white paper to try and rationalize that science can’t make Wild Assed Guesses and Completely Appropriate Predictions —  WAG’s and CAPs — until every last animal is dead.

The whales —  and they are not a stable and forever here species on planet earth —  are experiencing less food because the human impeded ocean dynamics and the acidification and the microplastics and the pollutants, both chemical and noise, and who knows about Fukashima, shit, and what about their world now just a piss pot and sloppy human created shit hole just might be creating depression, uh, in a smarter species than Homo Consumopithecus? Climate Change Fatigue the pasty people of the Western World get, but cetaceans, they are somehow immune from depression as their vast world is minute by minute fouled by the engines of killer capitalism? Who wouldn’t try to end it all watching the calves die before they hit maturity?

Here, from the so tragically so hip, Seattle The Stranger:

“Many of the whales that have been necropsied have been unusually thin,” Michael Milstein, Public Affairs Officer with NOAA Fisheries wrote in an email to The Stranger. “Surveys in the lagoons in Mexico where gray whales winter found that up to half of the individual whales were skinny and malnourished.”

According to Milstein, gray whales feed in the Arctic in the summer, and that food mainly lasts them all year.

“It appears that for some reason some of these whales did not put on as much weight last summer and are now giving out on their way back north,” Milstein said. NOAA Fisheries scientists are continuing to study this.

Thirty-one dead gray whales have been spotted along the West Coast since January, the most for this time of year since 2000. In this file photo from 2016, NOAA biologists take samples from a dead 43-foot gray whale at San Onofre State Park in California. (Mark Boster/ Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Or, more bad news about science that was or seems so miscalculated, so tripped up on shifting baseline disorder: Seattle Times,

One of the great success stories of the ocean, the return of the Pacific gray whale, may have been based on a miscalculation, scientists reported Monday in a study based on whale genetics.

What was assumed to be a thriving whale population actually is at times starving because of a dwindling food supply, said study co-author Stephen Palumbi, a Stanford University marine-sciences professor. And global warming is a chief suspect.

Scientists may have underestimated the historical number of gray whales from Mexico to Alaska, according to the study published Monday [September 18, 2007] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And that may have led to a misdiagnosis of what is behind surprising die-offs over the past few years and the appearance of many so-called “skinny” whales.

The National Marine Fisheries Service recently reported that at least 10 percent of gray whales returning to one of their four main calving and breeding lagoons off Baja California showed signs of being underfed. Some of the whales even had bony shoulder blades.

“This is a hint of a problem,” Palumbi said. “Our antennas should be up. Our antennas should be asking if the ocean is capable of supporting life the way it used to.”

The study concludes that the original Pacific gray whale population hundreds of years ago may have been far higher than currently thought — closer to 100,000 whales than conventional estimates of 20,000 to 30,000.

Gray Whales Are Dying: Starving to Death Because of Climate Changele Carcass Ready for Articulation

Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is smaller than a hare’s? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of Herschel’s great telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of hearing? Not at all. Why then do you try to ‘enlarge’ your mind? Subtilize it.

–Hermann Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 74 – “The Sperm Whale’s Head”

Note: A very short piece coming from me today? WTF?

Yah! I write about this fellow because he has been a part of curriculum development and delivering education — hands on — for many many years. We’re talking about 40 years, almost.

Bill Hanshumaker, a senior instructor at the Hatfield Marine Science Center and chief scientist for Oregon Sea Grant.

So, even four years back, Bill was working on jellyfish explosions in these parts — Central Oregon Coast. Explosions of jelly fish, hmm, not good:

Striking blue sea creatures, Velella velella, have washed up by the thousands on Oregon beaches including at Seaside, Manzanita, Astoria and Rockaway Beach in recent days, tourism officials report.

The small jellyfish-like animals normally live out at sea, floating on its surface. But every spring, thousands get blown by strong westerly winds onto the sands of Oregon, California and Washington and die. OREGONIAN.

When strong westerly winds blow over the Pacific coastline, Velella velella are swept by the thousands onto beaches including those at Seaside and Manzanita. They are often called By-the-wind Sailors, because they have their own small sails and move with the wind.

I write A LOT about education, how broken it is at the PK12 level (come on, that’s the lifeblood of development, not college and universities). Colleges are cesspools of idiocy, too, but where oh where does it all start?

Poverty, injustice, and reading comprehension issues go hand in hand.

― D. WatkinsThe Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America Here. DN.

Unfortunately, the youngest person to listen to Bill Saturday (April 20) was 40, maybe? Most were past retirement, a few in their fifties, me, 62, but still working, teaching PK12 students in many many schools here on the Oregon Coast. The rest way into their 60s and 70s. This fellow has enthusiasm that is catching and how dare we as a society that we have these silos, man, and we have no will to get many generations together.

Here’s my piece, hoping it ends up in the Newport Times News, like this one: Experts paint sobering potential for sea change

Also here, Op Ed News. But here, the piece:

Lurking in Yaquina Bay: Blue Whale Carcass Ready for Articulation

The quietude of the Central Oregon Coast – sans the tourists/visitors – is an illusion when it comes to marine sciences and the remarkable gravitas OSU Hatfield Marine Sciences Center and Oregon Coast Aquarium have on researching the oceans and our discussions around the good, bad and ugly tied to them.

It’s not difficult to get 26 cetacean (whales, dolphins) and pinniped (seals, sea lions) adherents in a room at the Newport Library on a Saturday morning (April 20) to listen to one of OSU’s best talk about marine mammals and acoustic research,  Dermestids (or flesh-eating beetles) and the state of species in ever-changing meteorological and ecological conditions tied to our oceans.

The Oregon chapter of the American Cetacean Society invited Dr. Bill Hanshumaker to present his talk titled,  “How do we know what we think we know about marine mammals?” He brought skulls of whales, dolphins and sea lions; vertebrae of a blue whale; baleen from whales and teeth from orca and other toothed whales species; and decades of experience as a scientist.

The 67-year-old Hanshumaker is the CSI guy at the Hatfield; he’s given more than 50 public presentations, some of which included “cool stuff” like dissecting sharks at public gatherings and articulating skeletons of huge – the largest species in the world – blue whales.

Image result for whale bone articulations

“Science is a dynamic process, not stagnant,” Bill Hanshumaker said. “Most people look at science as a collection of facts or a belief system. It’s much more than that.” Of course, coming up with a hypothesis – sometimes referred to as WAG (wild-assed guess) – allows for testing it, looking for patterns and demonstrating a willingness to change course.

Part of changing course, according to the scientist, includes using new tools, or old ones, to go at a problem in a new way. Observation of whales performing actions and reacting to their environment is one good step toward making a WAG and then testing it. However, we need multiple tools and systems to conduct good science.

Hanshumaker, who was with OMSI for 17 years, highlighted that he is responsible for all those “articulated” skeletons throughout the Portland museum. His current work is on the way out, as he retires in a few months, but he brought to us work by Bob Dziak whose research with hydrophones determines many aspects of whale behavior tied to their own acoustic calls and language.

Killer whales in particular vocalize more when hunting salmon, tuna or sharks, because their prey aren’t hearing the sounds and the killer whales are probably communicating signals for the pod members to act in concert in getting at the food. When approaching marine mammals, stealth is more important, so that ecotype of killer whale will not vocalize when on the hunt.

It’s the mother who teaches killer whale offspring to go for salmon or go for seals.

Image result for orca whales in the wild
Image result for orca whales in the wild

He’s looking at all the noise – called ambient and background noise – in the ocean to determine what is natural and what can be adaptable. Toothed whales like orca and sperm whales have high frequency calls, whereas baleen whales like humpbacks and grays have lower pitched (frequency) calls.

Calls from blue whales may signal mating language rituals; however, the ship traffic in the oceans disturbs communication abilities, he stated, which includes breeding habits. When September 11, 2001 occurred, all ship traffic was halted, and previously placed hydrophones picked up more communication calls from blue whales, leading to the hypothesis they were using calls for mating.

The whale enthusiasts listened and watched the scientist explain sound propagation, cavitation noise (propeller sounds), and which methods of noise reduction will help whales and dolphins live in a less chaotic world of hundreds of thousands of ships crisscrossing their habitats daily.

Interestingly, OSU got the job of designing three new research vessels – with green technology incorporated, including noise reduction propellers that are more fuel efficient, Hanshumaker stated. The design also includes optimized hull form, waste heat recovery, LED lighting, and variable speed power generation.

The National Science Foundation selected Oregon State largely because of the university’s deep research history, active science programs and leadership through the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center. The current research vessel OSU uses, Oceanus, is almost 45 years old and has outlived its scientific capabilities.

Part of the research tied to acoustics is only possible through fully funding marine sciences programs to include these research vessels as floating laboratories and living classrooms. For instance, studying acoustic recordings in the wild can tell scientists how different ecotypes of one species have much different “dialects” versus other ecotypes. Humpback whales, like other species, have different dialects so when groups congregate, differentiation lowers chances of inbreeding: which is the bane of all species collapsing.

Our Central Oregon Coast is mostly visited upon (90 percent of whales) by the iconic gray whale, which is a marine animal success story, compared to the Atlantic coast where the grays were hunted to extinction. One reason for Pacific grays’ success is that the Mexican government designated three significant breeding and calving bays along the Baja Peninsula as protected gray whale reserves.

One example (of many) illustrating “genetic bottlenecks” is the elephant seal along the California coast. “In 1910 they thought it was extinct, so a scientist shot what he thought were the last surviving eight,” Hanshumaker said. The reality was there were still elephant seals living in secluded habitats, but unfortunately, the diversity pool is now so limited that all offspring are identical twins.

Interesting topics he brought up included stripping marine mammal carcasses of muscle and meat, while still preserving connective tissue and even the smallest bones with those beetles. Hanshumaker says a new, quicker way has been developed:  horse manure compost pits are dug and the carcass covered so all bugs, bacteria and larvae can work in concert to do the job beetles and fly maggots do.

For Hanshumaker – like most holistic-thinking scientists I’ve interviewed over the course of almost four and a half decades – he posits all things connect in nature. I use this John Muir quote to illustrate that for students I teach:

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.

When we see an otter around here, we have to be reminded it’s a river otter, since marine otters no longer inhabit Washington and Oregon waters. In fact, in the Aleutian Islands, sea otters were wiped out by a pod of killer whales. No sea otter in a habitat means sea urchin populations explode. Which in turn destroy bull kelp forests since urchins eat kelp and otters each urchins. Those kelp habitats are like sea nurseries for hundreds of fish species. Fewer places for juvenile fish to grow protected means less fish in nets and on hooks.

“Fishermen do not want sea otters returned because they see them as competitors, eating fish. Kelp beds will help increase the numbers of fish,” Hanshumaker stated, Science and data and field evidence are not enough to stop “fishermen believing what they want to believe.”

The irony is kelp needs rocky areas to anchor and root into. Trying to reintroduce kelp and marine otters would be fruitless since those rocky bottom “holds” are now covered up with sand years after the kelp forests’ disappearance.

Back to the whale lurking in a net in Yaquina Bay: It was struck by a ship, it’s 80 feet long, and it’s been at the bottom of the bay with a net around it going on three years. Hanshumaker says there is still flesh on the carcass. Plans for this scientist to get the bones stripped of all flesh and then articulated as one skeleton are on hold because the marine sciences classroom that is being built at Hatfield has new architectural plans that will not accommodate the blue whale to hang anywhere.

Image result for whale bone articulations Hatfield Oregon

The Siletz casino in Lincoln City doesn’t want the skeleton, he stated. The scientist thinks the Lincoln County fairgrounds building will be the skeleton’s final resting place.

Image result for hanging skeleton articulation Hatfield Marine Sciences
Bruce Mate of Oregon State University is seen with a Minke Whale skeleton on campus. Blue Whale in Central Oregon he’s working on.

Who knows where this CSI scientist will end up since he is retiring from OSU this year. There’s no doubt about it, though, Bill will be right there if another big animal washes ashore. The amount of institutional (science) memory he will take with him is a whole other article about where the sciences are heading as Baby Boomers retire.

**end of article**

Back to the title — The scientists and the government shills will all be writing white paper after white paper to try and rationalize that science can’t make Wild Assed Guesses and Completely Appropriate Predictions —  WAG’s and CAPs — until every last animal is dead.

The whales —  and they are not a stable and forever here species on planet earth —  are experiencing less food because the human impeded ocean dynamics and the acidification and the microplastics and the pollutants, both chemical and noise, and who knows about Fukashima, shit, and what about their world now just a piss pot and sloppy human created shit hole just might be creating depression, uh, in a smarter species than Homo Consumopithecus? Climate Change Fatigue the pasty people of the Western World get, but cetaceans, they are somehow immune from depression as their vast world is minute by minute fouled by the engines of killer capitalism? Who wouldn’t try to end it all watching the calves die before they hit maturity?

Here, from the so tragically so hip, Seattle The Stranger:

“Many of the whales that have been necropsied have been unusually thin,” Michael Milstein, Public Affairs Officer with NOAA Fisheries wrote in an email to The Stranger. “Surveys in the lagoons in Mexico where gray whales winter found that up to half of the individual whales were skinny and malnourished.”

According to Milstein, gray whales feed in the Arctic in the summer, and that food mainly lasts them all year.

“It appears that for some reason some of these whales did not put on as much weight last summer and are now giving out on their way back north,” Milstein said. NOAA Fisheries scientists are continuing to study this.

Thirty-one dead gray whales have been spotted along the West Coast since January, the most for this time of year since 2000. In this file photo from 2016, NOAA biologists take samples from a dead 43-foot gray whale at San Onofre State Park in California. (Mark Boster/ Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Or, more bad news about science that was or seems so miscalculated, so tripped up on shifting baseline disorder: Seattle Times,

One of the great success stories of the ocean, the return of the Pacific gray whale, may have been based on a miscalculation, scientists reported Monday in a study based on whale genetics.

What was assumed to be a thriving whale population actually is at times starving because of a dwindling food supply, said study co-author Stephen Palumbi, a Stanford University marine-sciences professor. And global warming is a chief suspect.

Scientists may have underestimated the historical number of gray whales from Mexico to Alaska, according to the study published Monday [September 18, 2007] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And that may have led to a misdiagnosis of what is behind surprising die-offs over the past few years and the appearance of many so-called “skinny” whales.

The National Marine Fisheries Service recently reported that at least 10 percent of gray whales returning to one of their four main calving and breeding lagoons off Baja California showed signs of being underfed. Some of the whales even had bony shoulder blades.

“This is a hint of a problem,” Palumbi said. “Our antennas should be up. Our antennas should be asking if the ocean is capable of supporting life the way it used to.”

The study concludes that the original Pacific gray whale population hundreds of years ago may have been far higher than currently thought — closer to 100,000 whales than conventional estimates of 20,000 to 30,000.