Marine Mammal Genetics Program main page

Marine Mammal Genetics Program


Gray whaleThe Marine Mammal Genetics Program identifies population structure using primarily genetic data. Population structure is identified at two levels: the evolutionary level, which is integral to implementing the Endangered Species Act, and the demographic level, which forms the basis for conservation under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Effective conservation and management efforts of marine mammals rely on accurate identification of population structure at both of these levels.

We integrate our strong expertise in conservation biology, systematics and population genetics to provide the best information possible to identify population structure. We collaborate closely with the expertise in other research divisions including population dynamics, ecology, behavior, life history, acoustics, oceanography and photogrammetry.

Research is supported by our state-of-the-art conservation genetics laboratory and genetics tissue archive. The latter houses a continually growing world-wide sample collection enriched by international scientific collaborations. The genetics archive, the genetics laboratory, and the database operated by our group provide the infrastructure necessary to drive the management science and ensure high quality data for current and future needs. We also develop new molecular techniques and innovative analytical approaches designed specifically to improve management decisions and provide expert advice on population structure at regional, national and international management and academic meetings.



Testing of Spatial Structure Methods (TOSSM) website
An international effort to conduct simulation performance testing of genetic analytical methods

MMTD Molecular Ecology Laboratory website
The core genetics laboratory serving all of MMTD's Programs

SWFSC Marine Mammal and Turtle Molecular Research Sample Collection
One of the largest marine mammal and marine turtle sample collections in the world

Research activities


Recent publications

  • Redrawing the map: mtDNA provides new insights into the distribution and diversity of short-finned pilot whales in the Pacific Ocean
    Van Cise, AM, PA Morin, RW Baird, AR Lang, KM Robertson, SJ Chivers, RL Brownell Jr., KK Martien, 2016, Marine Mammal Science in press.
  • Nuclear and mitochondrial patterns of population structure in North Pacific false killer whales
    Martien, K.K., S.J. Hivers, R.W. Baird, FI Archer, AM Gorgone, BL Hancock-Hanser,  Mattila, DJ McSweeney, EM Oleson, C Palmer, VL Pease, KM Robertson, GS Schorr, MB Schultz, DL Webster, BL Taylor, 2014, Journal of Heredity 105:611-626.
  • A thin soup: extraction and amplification of DNA from DMSO and ethanol used as preservative for Cetacean tissue samples
    Robertson, K.M., J. Minich, A.J. Bowman, and P.A. Morin, 2013, Conservation Genetics Resources doi: 10.1007/s12686-013-9934-4.
  • Targeted multiplex next-generation sequencing: Advances in techniques of mitochondrial and nuclear sequencing for population genomics
    Hancock-Hanser, B.L., A. Frey, M. Leslie, P.H. Dutton, F.I. Archer, and P.A. Morin, 2013, Molecular Ecology Resources 13:254-268.
  • Mitogenomic phylogenetics of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus spp.): genetic evidence for revision of species
    Archer, F.I, P.A. Morin, B.L. Hancock-Hanser, K.M. Roberts, M.S. Leslie, M. Berubé, S. Panigada, and B.L. Taylor, 2013, PLoS ONE 8:e63396.