Project to Map Genetic Relatedness of Dolphin Populations in the South Pacific
WASHINGTON, April 26, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Scott Baker, Ph.D., associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute and professor of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University, has been awarded a 2011 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. His project will map patterns of isolation and interaction among populations of dolphins in the South Pacific Ocean and identify habitats important to protect for their long-term survival.
"Some dolphins migrate over large areas of open ocean, while others form relatively isolated communities around islands or atolls," said Dr. Baker. "The Pew Marine Fellowship offers an opportunity to conduct an extensive study of these different population patterns for dolphins across the South Pacific so that we can better understand and protect these engaging creatures."
The Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation is a prestigious program that gives recipients U.S. $150,000 for a three-year scientific research or conservation project designed to address critical challenges facing our oceans. Dr. Baker's Pew Fellowship project will pursue a large-scale study in the South Pacific to gather data on geographic patterns of genetic diversity and relatedness of dolphin populations. With this information, he will provide a scientific basis to assess whether existing marine protected areas are adequate for protecting local dolphin populations and how to design future protected areas to better meet the needs of dolphins and other top predators.
The islands of the tropical South Pacific, also known as Oceania, represent the world's most extensive habitat for resident communities and migratory populations of dolphins, most of which remain entirely unstudied. Because only some of this habitat falls under protection from fishing and other human activities, this region provides a unique opportunity to learn how marine protected areas can enhance the long-term connectivity and survival of different dolphin populations.
"Through Dr. Baker's application of 'seascape genetics,' we can better understand the distribution and migration of dolphins and other top predators," said Joshua S. Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group. "Dr. Baker's project can help guide policy decisions for creating permanent areas not only to protect dolphins, but other highly migratory creatures as well."
In addition to his position at Oregon State University, Dr. Baker is an adjunct professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He received his doctorate degree from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, where he worked on the migration and abundance of humpback whales in the North Pacific. His current work focuses on the molecular ecology and evolution of whales, dolphins and other cetaceans. His interest in methods for genetic identification of cetacean species has helped track the illegal sale of products from protected whales and lead to the discovery of a new species of beaked whales. Dr. Baker is chair of the Executive Committee of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium, which coordinates non-lethal research on whales and dolphins in the South Pacific and provides scientific advice to national and international agencies in the region.
The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation has awarded 119 fellowships to individuals from 30 countries. The Pew Fellowships in Marine Conservation fund science and other projects that address critical challenges in the conservation of the ocean, including communication of project information to increase awareness of global marine issues. Through a rigorous nomination and review process, an international committee of marine specialists selects Pew Fellows based on the strengths of their proposed projects, including their potential to protect ocean environments. Unique and timely projects led by outstanding professionals in their fields are chosen annually, targeting individuals who are mid-career. The program is managed by the Pew Environment Group, based in Washington, D.C.
More information about each of the 2011 Pew Fellows in Marine Conservation, including photographs and a video about the recipients, is available at www.pewmarinefellows.org.
The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization that works globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, preserve our wildlands and promote clean energy. www.PewEnvironment.org
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SOURCE Pew Environment Group