Cetacean Health and Life History Program Staff

Cetacean Health and Life History Program l Publications


 John Durban
 Southwest Fisheries Science Center
 Cetacean Health and Life History Program, Program Leader
 Phone: (858) 334-2866
 Fax: (858) 546-7003
 E-mail: John.Durban@noaa.gov

John is the leader of the Cetacean Health and Life History Program, which integrates a suite of research approaches to study the health of whales and dolphins at the   physiological, individual and population levels, and uses long-term datasets to assess   health in the context of life-histories. John’s own research focuses on photogrammetric studies of individual size, growth and body condition using unmanned aerial systems, and on assessments of abundance and demographics using photographic mark-recapture methods. Current research projects include assessing the nutritional health of endangered Southern Resident killer whales, evaluating the response of cetaceans to Navy sonar exposure and the population assessment of eastern North Pacific gray whales.

Publications


Dave Weller
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 546-5674
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Dave.Weller@noaa.gov


I have nearly 25 years of experience studying the biology and ecology of marine mammals. My specialization is focused in the areas of behavioral ecology, population assessment and evaluation of potential disturbance impacts from human activities. I presently direct two well-established research programs that include: 1) an ongoing study of the behavior, ecology and population dynamics of a critically endangered population of western Pacific gray whales off Far East Russia; and 2) an ongoing study of the behavioral ecology and population dynamics of coastal bottlenose dolphins off California. Recently, I have been working closely with the International Whaling Commission, World Conservation Union (IUCN), U.S. Marine Mammal Commission and a variety of national and international academic institutions on issues related to the conservation and management of endangered whale and dolphin populations.

Publications


Kerri Danil
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 546-7001 Stranding Hotline: (858) 546-7162
FAX: (858) 546-7003
e-mail: Kerri.Danil@noaa.gov

I began working at SWFSC in 1998 as an at-sea oceanographer for dolphin surveys in the eastern tropical Pacific. In 1999, I began working in the Cetacean Health and Life History Program, where I now lead the dead marine mammal stranding program in San Diego County. In addition, I coordinate marine mammal biological sampling for our California gillnet fishery observer program. My research includes cetacean life history (age, growth, & reproduction), causes of mortality of stranded cetaceans, and the prevalence and impacts of biotoxins on cetaceans.

Publications







Nick Kellar
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone (858) 546-7090
Fax (858) 546-7003
e-mail: Nick.Kellar@noaa.gov

My research encompasses a range of biological disciplines from reproductive physiology and biochemistry to population biology; however the focus is fairly specific. I measure biomarkers, mostly hormones, from small skin samples of free-ranging cetaceans, to help assess population health, demography, and reproduction

So why do this? Well first you need to step into the shoes of a field biologist for a moment. Imagine you are on the bow of a research ship, and just a few dozen feet before you are a thousand spotted dolphins, zigging and zagging, leaping and diving. At any given moment, only a fraction of the school is visible from the surface. Each animal comes up just long enough to breathe, then disappears again. Now imagine trying to estimate how many dolphins are in that school let alone, how many are young or old, male or female, pregnant or not pregnant. It seems next to impossible, doesn’t it?


To help us, we employ a darting technique that takes a small piece of skin and blubber called a biopsy. This technique lets us obtain up to fifty biopsies in a single day. Back in the lab, we analyze the levels of steroid hormones in the blubber using laboratory procedures developed here at SWFSC. From this analysis, we can determine if an animal is pregnant, sexually mature, or even if it is likely experiencing chronic stress response. We use these findings to assess the relative health of dolphin and whale populations relative to potential anthropogenic disturbances such a pollution, fishing pressure, and acoustic perturbations from sonar use, shipping traffic, and oil exploration.

Publications


Jim Gilpatrick
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 546-7195
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Jim.Gilpatrick@noaa.gov

I began my work with NOAA in the early nineteen-eighties as a Fisheries Biologist aboard tropical tuna purse-seiners. This enabled me to witness a dynamic fishery and to observe the rich biodiversity of marine fauna found in pelagic waters of the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP). These experiences fueled my interest to support and conduct research on the morphology and life history of ETP dolphins. The studies later provided a better understanding of geographic range and structure of dolphin populations involved in the ETP yellowfin tuna fishery

Present research involves the use of fishery and aerial photogrammetric data to investigate biological parameters for blue whale populations. Morphometric analyses support delineation of exploited populations based on clear differences in the lengths of blue whales sampled in different regions of the Pacific and Southern Oceans. Morphological data will further be used to evaluate the biological condition of blue whales during certain years and seasons.

Current field efforts also include aerial photography of ETP dolphins to help resolve questions on school and geographic structure. Additionally, I support our Division in aerial photogrammetric surveys of other rorquals and pinniped and sea bird populations around the Pacific. Free time spent surfing, reading the history of Latin America and watching my two boys play tackle football.

Publications


Morgan Lynn
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 546-7194
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Morgan.Lynn@noaa.gov

Morgan has been doing photogrammetry since it was started here in 1986 and used unique military aerial reconnaissance cameras to investigate population dynamics questions involved in the tuna/dolphin investigation. A degree in Marine Biology and hobbies of photography and building things made it a perfect fit. Since then he has been involved in the evolution of the techniques from film into digital photography. He has used these techniques in the investigation of many different species of cetaceans, as well as pinnipeds and even marine turtles.

Publications



Hollis Europe
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 546-7077
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Hollis.Europe@noaa.gov

LTJG Hollis Europe received her commission as a NOAA Corps Officer January 2013. She served as Junior Officer aboard NOAA Ship Pisces until November 2015 and is now the Cetacean Photo Specialist working for the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division at SWFSC. She is a certified NOAA diver, a member of the stranding team, and a drone pilot for the Cetacean Health and Life History Program. She is responsible for budget, purchasing, planning, and general admin assistance as well as some data collection and processing for annual gray whale surveys.


Jacob Barbaro
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 546-5690
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Jacob.Barbaro@noaa.gov

LTJG Jacob Barbaro received his commission as a NOAA Corps Officer August 2013. He served his first sea tour aboard NOAA Ship Pisces from December 2013-December 2015 as NAV officer, and is currently stationed in San Diego at SWFSC serving as the UAS operations coordinator. LTJG Barbaro's duties include operating, repairing, and maintaining an inventory of UAS aircraft for use in all of the UAS field work conducted by the Cetacean Health and Life History Program. He also is responsible for training new pilots on the APH-22 platform, coordinating UAS airspace for field efforts, and is the designated safety officer for the UAS and photogrammetry lab.


Chelsea Parrish
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 546-7077
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: chelsea.parrish@noaa.gov

LTJG Chelsea Parrish received her commission as a NOAA Corps Officer in July of 2016. She recently served as the Navigation Officer and Environmental Compliance Officer throughout her tenure aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II (December 2016—January 2019). Ms. Parrish now serves as the Cetacean Photogrammetry Specialist working for the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division at SWFSC. She is a certified NOAA Working Diver, a member of the stranding team, and a drone pilot, conducting UAS operations for the Cetacean Health and Life History Program. Prior to the NOAA Corps, LTJG Parrish received both a B.S. in Biology (2013) and a M.S. in Marine Science (2016) from Savannah State University in Savannah, GA.




Brandon Tao
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 546-5690
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: brandon.tao@noaa.gov

LTJG Brandon Tao received his commission as a NOAA Corps Officer in July of 2016. He completed his first sea tour aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster from December 2016-December 2018 as the Navigation Officer and is currently stationed in San Diego at SWFSC serving as the UAS Operations Coordinator. Prior to NOAA Corps, LTJG Tao received his Bachelor degree in Environmental Science and completed graduate work in Environmental Policy. His previous research includes marine mammal research in the Mediterranean Sea and policy analysis for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. LTJG Tao's duties include operating, repairing, and maintaining an inventory of UAS aircraft for use in all of the UAS field work conducted by the Cetacean Health and Life History Program.




Trevor Joyce
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Fax: (858) 546-7003

Trevor is a National Research Council postdoctoral associate at SWFSC studying cetacean behavioral ecology and conservation with the Cetacean Health and Life History Program, as well as seabird spatial ecology and population assessment. Trevor began his research career studying seabird demographics and conservation in Alaska and Hawaii, and joined SWFSC in 2010 during his graduate studies at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Trevor’s current research includes projects addressing ecological differences between Antarctic killer whales ecotypes, and the interactions of Antarctic killer whales with Antarctic minke whales and humpback whales. In addition Trevor is involved in research evaluating the behavioral responses of dolphins and beaked whales to naval sonar exposure, and assessing the population statuses and distribution patterns of North Pacific seabirds.

Publications


Josh Stewart
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 546-5617
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: joshua.stewart@noaa.gov

Josh is a National Resource Council Postdoctoral Research Associate evaluating the status of cetacean populations with the CHLHP. My main focus is assessing body condition changes in the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale Population, and how these changes might be related to food availability. The goal of this work is to identify what stocks of prey species (e.g. salmon) are most important for maintaining healthy body conditions in the three SRKW pods, and how the pods' population trajectories will respond in the future to different levels of prey abundance. I'm generally interested in improving conservation outcomes for marine species (especially large marine vertebrates) using a combination of field research and advanced analytical techniques. I received my PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where I focused on the population ecology of manta and devil rays.




Elyse Wurster
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 334-2874
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Elyse.Wurster@noaa.gov

In the summer of 1996, I worked as an oceanography assistant on a NOAA research cruise studying the habitat and prey of blue whales around the Channel Islands in southern CA. The following year, I began working at SWFSC in the sea turtle genetics division. Using mitochondrial DNA as well as microsatellites we studied the life history and migration patterns of multiple species of sea turtles. In addition to lab work, I participated in field efforts including sea turtle capture and sampling in San Diego Bay and the Eastern Tropical Pacific, and counts of migrating gray whales. Currently, my research focuses mainly on analyzing endocrine hormones from marine mammal blubber as a tool to assess health, stress, and reproductive status of populations or individuals. I am also interested in diseases and causes of mortality in cetaceans and sea turtles. I assist with stranding response, postmortem investigations, and provide veterinary support to both the marine mammal and sea turtle stranding groups. In addition to my work with wild marine animals, I have worked as a small animal veterinarian since 2006.


Cassidy O’Bryant
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 334-2861
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Cassidy.OBryant@noaa.gov

Facilitating projects within the CHLHP to assess the health of cetaceans, including databasing, photogrammetry measurements of individual size and group behaviors.








Keiko Sherman
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 334-2849
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Kathryn.Sherman@noaa.gov

Keiko began volunteering for SWFSC in 2012 and has since become a full-time contractor. Her main research focuses on quantifying hormones from marine mammal blubber to assess stress and reproductive status/success in cetaceans and pinnipeds in an attempt to understand the approximate health of populations or sub-groups of animals. Additionally, she is an active participant in the stranding response of dead marine mammals in San Diego County, to assess causes of mortality and build on a long time series of cetacean life history data.  Her work has also focused on photogrammetry analysis of aerial photographs from UAS missions, specifically to assess dolphin spacing as part of a study to understand the behavioral response of dolphins groups to sonar exposure off Southern California. 

Publications



Molly Groskreutz
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 334-2860
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Molly.Groskreutz@noaa.gov

I am currently using photogrammetric methods to track individuals and monitor the growth and condition of cetaceans, with particular focus on killer whales in the Antarctic and Northeast Pacific. I’m interested in many aspects of marine mammal science, but have had a special interest in cetacean ecology since I had the opportunity to study killer whales in the Northeast Pacific back in 2010.






Paige Casler
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Phone: (858) 334-2840
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Paige.Casler@noaa.gov

My work primarily focuses on utilizing aerial photogrammetry from a UAS platform to determine cetacean health, body condition, growth, and population dynamics. I am currently aiding in projects to assess the condition of Northeast Pacific killer whales, San Diego's coastal bottlenose dolphins, and various species of Antarctic cetaceans.







Alyssa Paredes
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Fax: (858) 546-7003

Currently focused on photo identification of San Diego's coastal bottlenose dolphin population. This project is aimed towards linking individuals to those cataloged in previous years, resulting in enhancing our knowledge of the life histories and population dynamics of these animals.



Sam Mutschler
Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Cetacean Health and Life History Program
Fax: (858) 546-7003

Sam is a Master's student at University of San Diego studying Delphinus spp. in the Southern California Bight. Her work aims to use aerial photogrammetry to better understand demographics of pods and apply these methods to cetacean conservation. Sam is passionate about ecosystem conservation and determining new ways to monitor marine populations. Before starting her Master's program, she performed research aimed at monitoring a variety of other groups of organisms, including plankton, fish, and rocky intertidal algae.






Last modified: 3/1/2019