Tracking oceanic change and Mysticete behaviour through stable isotope oscillations along baleen plates.
Mass marine mammal mortality events remain relatively unexplored among the large baleen whales. Unlike gregarious toothed whales, baleen whales are more often solitary, so why they are becoming involved in mass mortality events remains unresolved.
Possible links to mass mortalities includes bio-oceanographic conditions, malnutrition and saxitoxins within the environment. Oceanic processes are expected to change in frequency and intensity as a consequence of climate change. How will they influence the behaviour of baleen whales?
Baleen whales are characterized by their keratinous filter feeding apparatus. My research will involve using the stable isotope signatures assimilated within these plates as indicators of feeding/foraging and migratory behaviour. These keratin plates are an ideal bio-repository, containing isotopic data over long temporal scales (4-20yrs).
My research will further investigate how feeding/migratory behaviour and oceanic variables interrelate, how this is changing or projected to change, and whale plasticity/ability to adapt. I am also interested in whale condition and environmental factors prior to mass mortality events to provide a deeper understanding to this phenomenon.