Cetacean Health and Life History Program

Staff l Publications l Life History l Photogrammetry l Strandings l 2014 Stranding Network Meeting l Frozen Tissue Archive l Fishery Observer Program l Killer Whales l Gray Whales l Tagging l Unmanned Aerial Systems

Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) de Havilland Twin Otter in flight      Spinner Dolphin
            KW icon    

calf and cow    

Dolphins Jumping Out of the Water

The Cetacean Health and Life History Program continues to develop new tools for the assessment of marine mammals and contribute crucial data to our mandated research efforts. Our team works closely with colleagues in the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division to monitor the life history, condition and health of cetacean populations. Our data is essential to regular abundance estimates.


2014 Stranding Network Meeting

(Click on image below for more information)



Eastern North Pacific Gray Whale Population Surveys

gray whale tail weller

Gray Whale Calf Abundance

PB cow and calf

Evaluating Killer Whale Predation on Gray Whales

Killer whale attacking gray whale


October 2012

Globe Trotting Gray Whales Slowly Reveal Their Secrets

Unmanned Aerial Systems Give NOAA Scientists a New Perspective

Aerial Drone

September 2012

Southwest Fisheries Science Center photo library is live!

September 10, 2012: SWFSC scientists give Gray whale lecture at Birch Aquarium The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries Disclaimer

birch talk

June 2012

Assessing whale responses to sonar exposure at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) - Bahamas


April 2012

Students interact with our team during the 2012 gray whale calf production survey


Gray whale migration brings new scientific discovery

Safe Passage: NOAA Scientists and Gray Whales are Forging New Paths

March, 2012

19 gray whales tagged in lagoons of Baja, Mexico. See their tracks.


March, 2012

Antarctic killer whale research to be featured on Discovery's "Frozen Planet" TV series

KW hunting

Publication results of 2009 Delphinus Cruise

2009 logo

November 2011

MMTD staff members conduct necropsy on 67 foot fin whale

fin whale necropsy

  • Meet a One-Eyed, Six-Legged, Flying Whale Chaser:
    Wayne Perryman and the Photogrammetry Program was featured at http://news.yahoo.com/meet-one-eyed-six-legged-flying-whale-chaser-175659780.html The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries DisclaimerThe article highlights the lessons learned and the move forward to a less obtrusive method to spot marine mammals, with the use of an unmanned aerial system.

  • Researchers deploy drones to spy on sperm whales:
    Wayne Perryman was featured in the Pete Thomas Outdoors, action and adventure website as seen here. The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries DisclaimerThe article highlights the goal of using an unmanned aerial system to research large whales, such as the sperm whale. Unmanned aerial systems are non-invasive and can be flown closely to mammals without altering their behavior, unlike a normal aircraft or ship.

  • CA Coastal Bottlenose Dolphin Health Assessment Research:

    The Photogrammetry and Life History Program has initiated the development of a new marine mammal health assessment project. This is a collaborative effort with several institutions, bringing together a diversity of expertise. The first phase of fieldwork began in November 2008, and is focused on assessment of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as PCBs, DDTs, HCHs and PBDEs, in coastal bottlenose dolpins off San Diego County and around the Channel Islands.

  • Aerial Photos Give Perspective on Gray Whales:
    Wayne Perryman and the Photogrammetry Program was featured in the San Diego Union Tribune as seen here The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries Disclaimeron the UT San Diego website. The article highlights the goal of using aerial photogrammety to estimate reproductive and nutritive condition of gray whales based on their size and shape.

  • Killer Whale predation on Gray whales: SWFSC scientist John Durban is featured in the BBC series "Ocean Giants" as seen here The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries Disclaimeron the BBC One website. The video clip demonstrates killer whale tagging operations as part of an ongoing study to understand killer whale predation on gray whales.

  • Killer Whales soff La Jolla, CA

    MMTD scientists encountered a pod of eight Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) off La Jolla on January 15, 2009. The pod included two adult males and two calves. The orcas chased a large school of Common Dolphin (Delphinus sp.) offshore. See photos from this rare sighting. To learn about MMTD's research on Killer Whale genetics, click here .

  • Snowball Fight! Scientist vs. Killer Whale:

    Bob Pitman shares the story of his snowball fight with a Killer Whale in Antarctica. This amazing interaction took place during a field study with Wayne Perryman and Don LeRoi in 2007. http://www.livescience.com/animals/090206-nhm-killer-whale-snowball.html The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries Disclaimer


Fearnbach, H., Durban, J. W., Parsons, K. M., Claridge, D. 2012 Photographic mark-recapture analysis of local dynamics within an open population of dolphins. Ecological Applications, 22(5): 1689–1700.

Ford, J., Durban, J. Ellis, G. Towers, J. Pilkington, J., Barrett-Lennard, L., Andrews, R. 2012. New insights into the northward migration route of gray whales between Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and southeastern Alaska. Marine Mammal Science . DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2012. 00572.x

Weller, D.W., Klimek, A., Bradford, A.L., Calambokidis, J., Lang, A.R., Gisborne, B., Burdin, A.M., Szaniszlo, W., Urbán, J., Gomez-Gallardo Unzueta, A., Swartz, S. and Brownell, R.L., Jr. 2012. Movements of gray whales between the western and eastern North Pacific. Endangered Species Research 18:193-199

Bradford, A.L., Weller, D.W., Punt, A.E., Ivashchenko, Y.V., Burdin, A.M., VanBlaricom, G.R. and R. L. Brownell, Jr. 2012. Leaner leviathans: body condition variation in a critically endangered whale population. Journal of Mammalogy. 93(1):251-266

Scott, M. D., S. J. Chivers, R. O. Olson, P. C. Fiedler, and K. Holland. 2012. Pelagic predator associations: tuna and dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series 458:283-302 (doi 10.3354/meps09740.)

Danil, K. and J.A. St.Leger. 2011. "Seabird and Dolphin Mortality Associated with Underwater Detonation Exercises." Marine Technology Society Journal 45, (6): 89-95.

Danil,K., S. J. Chivers, M. D. Henshaw, J. L. Thieleking, R. Daniels, and J.St.Leger. 2010. Cetacean strandings in San Diego County, California,USA:1851-2008. Journal of CetaceanResearch and Management 11(2):163-184.

Durban, J. et al. 2010. Comparing two methods of shore-based counts of eastern North Pacific gray whales. Report to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission SC/62/BRG8.

Durban, J. et al. 2010. Clustered mark-recapture analysis of mammal-eating killer whales around the Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska. Marine Biology 157(7): 1591-1604.

Chivers, S. J. 2009. Cetacean Life History. Pages 215-220 In: Perrin, W. F., B. Wursig, and J. G. M. Thewissen (eds). Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, 2nd edition. San Diego: Elsevier Press. 1316 pp.

Kellar, N.M., Trego, M.L.,Marks, C.I.,Chivers, S.J., Danil, K. and Archer, F.I. 2009. Blubber testosterone: A potential marker of male reproductive status in short-beaked common dolphins. Marine Mammal Science 25(3):507-22.

Gilpatrick, J. and W. Perryman. 2008. Geographic variation in external morphology of North Pacific and Southern Hemisphere blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus). Journal of Cetacean Resource Management 10(1):9-21.

Olson, Paula A., and Tim Gerrodette. 2008. Killer whales of the eastern tropical Pacific: a catalog of photo-identified individuals. U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS, NOAA-TM-NMFS-SWFSC-428, 120 p This catalog contains 195 individual killer whales, photographed during SWFSC surveys in the Eastern Tropical Pacific 1986-2006. It also illustrates the movements of whales sighted multiple times.


Marine Mammal Protection Act

Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP and 1992 amendments)

Oceans and Human Health Initiative (OHHI 2005)

Ecosystem Approach (NOAA Strategic Plan)

Last modified: 10/16/2017