GEMM Lab 2020: A Year in the Life

By Lisa Hildebrand, PhD student, OSU Department of Fisheries & Wildlife, Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Lab

Despite the trials and tribulations of 2020, the GEMM Lab has persevered and experienced many successes and high points. Join me, perhaps with a holiday beverage of choice in-hand, for a summary of what the lab and its members have achieved this year.

The GEMM Lab celebrated several milestones this year. We were all extremely excited and proud when halfway through the year, in July, GEMM Lab PI, Dr. Leigh Torres, was promoted to Associate Professor and granted indefinite tenure in the Department of Fisheries & Wildlife. Leigh joined the department in 2014 and has since completed 13 research projects, is leading 10 current research projects, has graduated 7 graduate students, and is currently advising 4 PhD students and a postdoctoral scholar. A big hurrah to Leigh, our inspiring and tireless captain at the GEMM Lab helm!!

Leigh isn’t the only GEMM Lab member to have received a new title. In March, Leila successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled “Body condition and hormone assessment of eastern North pacific gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) and associations to ambient noise” and thus graduated from being a PhD candidate to being Dr. Leila Soledade Lemos. Leila is currently a postdoctoral associate at Florida International University. I (Lisa Hildebrand) defended my Master’s thesis “Tonight’s specials include mysids, amphipods, and more: An examination of the zooplankton prey of Oregon gray whales and its impact on foraging choices and prey selection” just a few weeks ago and now bear the title of Master of Science. I am excited to announce that I won’t be leaving the GEMM Lab anytime soon as I will continue to  work with Leigh as I pursue my PhD. Our final new title recipient is Dawn who at the start of December advanced to PhD candidacy after successfully passing her written comprehensive exams in mid-November and her oral comprehensive exams in early December.

Summer is a busy time in the GEMM Lab, largely because it is the time when gray whales are distributed along our Oregon coast for their feeding season and therefore when both of our gray whale projects (GRANITE, or Gray whale Response to Ambient Noise Informed by Technology and Ecology, and the Port Orford foraging ecology project) collect another year of data. With the COVID-19 pandemic in its early stages in the spring (when we start to prep for our field seasons), it was uncertain whether we would be able to get into the field at all. However, after weeks of drafting up and submitting COVID-19 safety plans and precautions, Leigh was able to get both of our gray whale field seasons approved to go ahead this summer! This task was not easy since both projects require some form of travel and sampling methods that do not always allow for 6-feet of distance between team members. Furthermore, the Port Orford project requires the whole team to live and work out of OSU’s Port Orford Field Station together. Despite the hurdles, both projects had successful field seasons. If you want to hear more about the specifics of the field seasons, check out the field season summary blog.

Gray whales weren’t the only species to grab our attention in the field this year. OPAL (Overlap Predictions about Large whales) had a successful second year with Leigh and MMI faculty research assistant Craig Hayslip taking to the skies in United States Coast Guard helicopters four times a month. The project seeks to identify co-occurrence between whales and fishing effort in Oregon to reduce entanglement risk. Leigh and Craig documented numerous cetacean species including blue, fin, humpback, sperm whales, and killer whales. To help with this work, we are so excited to officially have Solène Derville back in the GEMM Lab as a postdoctoral scholar who will work on statistical models aimed at predicting habitat use and distribution patterns of whales off the Oregon coast. While our wish to physically welcome Solène back to Oregon this year did not quite pan out, we are hopeful that she will make the journey from New Caledonia to Oregon in 2021!

The data collected during the helicopter flights will be complimented by the marine mammal observer data that various members of the GEMM Lab have collected over the last four years aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada as part of the Northern California Current Ecosystem survey. These surveys typically occur three times a year (February, May, September). Although the pandemic threw a wrench into the May cruise, the September cruise was able to go ahead with Dawn and Clara on-board as the two marine mammal observers. It was a very successful cruise, with abundant marine mammal sightings and good survey conditions. Read more about those cruises in Clara and Dawn’s blogs.

While the GEMM Lab did not undertake any field work in New Zealand this year, Leigh and Dawn did travel there in February to meet with scientific colleagues, representatives of the oil and gas industry, and environmental managers, including the New Zealand Minister of Conservation, the Honorable Eugenie Sage. The trip allowed Leigh and Dawn to present their research on blue whales and discuss management implications. These meetings have been highly beneficial as they shared their latest research and results to assist with the development of a marine mammal sanctuary within the industrial region where their research is conducted.

The GEMM Lab prides itself on having strong outreach components to our research, ensuring that young students (high school and undergraduate) from diverse backgrounds have an opportunity to learn STEM skills. Some outreach opportunities were not possible in 2020, but the GEMM Lab continued our efforts where possible. Clara taught a photogrammetry workshop for the Marine Studies Initiative student club Ocean11, where students were taught how to measure whales from drone images. The success of the workshop (and earlier iterations of it in 2019) led to Clara turning it into a lab for Dr. Renee Albertson’s FW 469 Physiology/Behavior of Marine Megafauna class. As one of the program coordinators for the Fisheries & Wildlife Mentorship Program, I co-hosted an Intro to R & RStudio workshop this fall. Rachel taught a remote intensive science communication workshop during her first term in grad school. Although COVID-19 meant that one-on-one mentorships had to be a little more distant, over the course of the year, the GEMM Lab still supervised a total of 7 students that assisted our work in a variety of ways (field and/or lab work, data analyses, independent projects) on a number of projects going on in the lab.

In a typical year, GEMM Lab members would have undertaken quite a lot more travel, largely to attend conferences. Due to COVID-19, most conferences were either cancelled or held virtually. Leigh gave the plenary talk at the annual State of the Coast Conference, one of the favorite conferences of the GEMM Lab as it brings together scientists, stakeholders, managers, students, and the public to discuss Oregon-centric topics. Dawn gave an oral presentation at the International Marine Conservation Congress. The talk was titled “Wind, green water, and blue whales: Predictive models forecast blue whale distribution in an upwelling system to mitigate industrial impacts” as part of a symposium focused on evidence-based solutions for the management of large marine vertebrate species. Clara presented at the annual Research Advances in Fisheries, Wildlife & Ecology symposium hosted by the graduate student association in the Department of Fisheries & Wildlife. Clara’s talk, which was about her proposed PhD research, was titled “Drone footage reveals patterns of gray whale behavior across space, time, and the individual”.

While our travel may have been reduced this year, the lab certainly has had a prolific year of writing! The 19 new publications in 16 scientific journals include contributions from Leigh (6), Leila (5), Rachael (4), Solène (3), Clara (3), Dawn (2), and Ale (1). Scroll down to the end of the post to see the full list.

We are also very excited about a new addition to the lab. Rachel Kaplan, who is co-advised by Leigh and Dr. Kim Bernard in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, started her PhD at OSU in the fall. Rachel is one of this year’s recipients of the highly-competitive National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Receiving the fellowship allowed Rachel to wrap up her job at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine and move to Oregon. The journey wasn’t easy (Rachel moved in the midst of the pandemic and during the height of the wildfires that raged across the U.S. West Coast) but she made it here safely! For her PhD, Rachel will try to understand how oceanographic factors and prey patches shape the distribution of whales in Oregon waters (with data collected through the OPAL project) to work towards solutions to the high rates of whale entanglements in fishing gear that have occurred on the West Coast since 2014. Welcome Rachel! 

While we persevered through tough times this year and have been lucky to celebrate many accomplishments, nothing prepared us for the shock that we all felt, and are still feeling deeply, about the loss of our fellow GEMM Lab graduate student Alexa Kownacki just over a month ago. Alexa’s optimism, generosity, and kindness were unparalleled, and the hole that she leaves in the lab and in our lives individually is gaping. The lab wrote a collaborative blog about Alexa a few weeks ago and we have created a website in her honor, where we encourage everyone to post photos, tributes or stories about Alexa. It has been so comforting to us to read people’s memories of Alexa that allow us to learn new things about her and remind us of our own memories. Alexa, we think of you every day and we miss you.

Alexa in her element

If you are reading this post, we would like to say thank you for all the support and interest in our work – we really appreciate it! Our blog’s viewership this year (a whopping 25,588 views!) has increased over a seven-fold since its creation in 2015 (3,462 views). We hope you will continue to join us on our journeys in 2021. Until then, stay safe, mask up & happy holidays from the GEMM Lab!

A GEMM Lab Happy Hour Zoom


Ajó, A. A. F., Hunt, K. E., Giese, A. C., Sironi, M., Uhart, M., Rowntree, V. J., Marón, C. F., Dillon, D., DiMartino, M., & Buck, C. L. (2020). Retrospective analysis of the lifetime endocrine response of southern right whale calves to gull wounding and harassment: A baleen hormone approach. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 296, 113536.

Albert, C., …, Orben, R. A., et al. (2020). Seasonal variation of mercury contamination in Arctic seabirds: a pan-arctic assessment. Science of the Total Environment, 750, 142201.

Barlow, D. R., Bernard, K. S., Escobar-Flores, P., Palacios, D. M., & Torres, L. G. (2020). Links in the trophic chain: modeling functional relationships between in situ oceanography, krill, and blue whale distribution under different oceanographic regimes. Marine Ecology Progress Series642, 207-225.

Baylis, A. M. M., Tierney, M., Orben, R. A., González de la Peña, D., & Brickle, P. (2020). Non-breeding movements of Gentoo penguins at the Falkland Islands. Ibis, doi:10.1111/ibi.12882.

Bird, C., & Bierlich, K.. (2020).  CollatriX: A GUI to collate MorphoMetriX outputs. Journal of Open Source Software5(51), 2328. doi:10.21105/joss10.21105/joss.02328.

Bird, C., Dawn, A. H., Dale, J., & Johnston, D. W. (2020). A Semi-Automated Method for Estimating Adélie Penguin Colony Abundance from a Fusion of Multispectral and Thermal Imagery Collected with Unoccupied Aircraft Systems. Remote Sensing12(22), 3692. doi:10.3390/rs12223692.

Chero, G., Pradel, R., Derville, S., Bonneville, C., Gimenez, O., & Garrigue, C. (2020). Reproductive capacity of an endangered and recovering population of humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 643, 219-227.

Derville, S.Torres, L. G., Zerbini, A. N., Oremus, M., & Garrigue, C. (2020). Horizontal and vertical movements of humpback whales inform the use of critical pelagic habitats in the western South Pacific. Scientific Reports, 10, 4871.

DiGiacomo, A. E., Bird, C., Pan, V. G., Dobroski, K., Atkins-Davis, C., Johnston, D. W., & Ridge, J. T.. (2020). Modeling Salt Marsh Vegetation Height Using Unoccupied Aircraft Systems and Structure from Motion. Remote Sensing12(14), 2333. doi:10.3390/rs12142333.

Garrigue, C., Derville, S., Bonneville, C., Baker, C. S., Cheeseman, T., Millet, L., Paton, D., & Steel, D. (2020). Searching for humpback whales in a historical whaling hotspot of the Coral Sea, South Pacific. Endangered Species Research, 42, 67-82.

Hauser-Davis, R. A., Monteiro, F., Chávez da Rocha, R. C., Lemos, L., Duarte Cardoso, M., & Siciliano, S. (2020). Titanium as a contaminant of emerging concern in the aquatic environment and the current knowledge gap regarding seabird contamination. Ornithologia, 11, 7-15.

Hindell, M. A., … Torres, L. G., et al. (2020). Tracking of marine predators to protect Southern Ocean ecosystems. Nature, 580(7801), 87-92.

Jones, K. A., Baylis, A. M. M., Orben, R. A., Ratcliffe, N., Votier, S. C., Newton, J., & Staniland, I. J. (2020). Stable isotope values in South American fur seal pup whiskers as proxies of year-round maternal foraging ecology. Marine Biology, 167(10), 1-11.

Kroeger, C. E., Crocker, D. E., Orben, R. A., Thompson, D. R., Torres, L. G., Sagar, P. M., Sztukowski, L. A., Andriese, T., Costa, D. P., & Shaffer, S. A. (2020). Similar foraging energetics of two sympatric albatrosses despite contrasting life histories and wind-mediated foraging strategies. Journal of Experimental Biology, 223, jeb228585.

Lemos, L. S., Olsen, A., Smith, A., Chandler, T. E., Larson, S., Hunt, K., & Torres, L. G. (2020). Assessment of fecal steroid and thyroid hormone metabolites in eastern North Pacific gray whales. Conservation Physiology, 8, coaa110.

Monteiro, F., Lemos, L. S., et al. (2020). Total and subcellular Ti distribution and detoxification processes in Pontoporia blainvillei and Steno bredanensis dolphins from southeastern Brazil. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 153, 110975.

Quinete, N., Hauser-Davis, R. A., Lemos, L. S., Moura, J. F., Siciliano, S., & Gardinali P. R. (2020). Occurrence and tissue distribution of organochlorinated compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) from the southeastern coast of Brazil. Science of the Total Environment, 749, 141473.

Soledade Lemos, L., Burnett, J. D., Chandler, T. E., Sumich, J. L., & Torres, L. G. (2020). Intra- and inter-annual variation in gray whale body condition on a foraging ground. Ecosphere, 11(4), e03094.

Torres, L. G., Barlow, D. R.Chandler, T. E., & Burnett, J. D. (2020). Insight into the kinematics of blue whale surface foraging through drone observations and prey data. PeerJ8, e8906.

Five mind-blowing facts about sperm whales

By Solène Derville, Postdoctoral Scholar, OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Lab

Having worked almost exclusively on humpback whales for the past 5 years, I recently realized how specialized I have become when I was asked to participate in an expedition targeting another legendary cetacean, which I discovered I knew so little about: the sperm whale. On November 18th I boarded a catamaran with a team of 8 other seamen, film makers and scientists, all ready to sail off the west coast of New Caledonia in the search of this elusive animal. The expedition was named “Code CODA” in reference to the unique patterned series of clicks produced by sperm whales.

As I prepared for the expedition, I did my scientific literature homework and felt a growing awe for sperm whales. At every step of my research, whether I investigated their morphology, physiology, social behavior, feeding habits… everything about them appeared to be exceptional. Below is a list summarizing five mind-blowing facts everyone should know about sperm whales.

A sperm whale sketch I made on the boat in preparation for this blog post (Illustration credit: Solène Derville)

Sea giants

 Sperm whales are the largest of the odontocetes species, which is the group of “toothed whales” that also includes dolphins, porpoises and beaked whales. They show a strong sexual dimorphism, unusual for a cetacean, as adult males can be about twice as big as adult females. Indeed, male sperm whales can reach up to 18 m and 56 tons (approximately the weight of 9 elephants!). Their massive block-shaped head is perhaps their most distinctive feature. It contains the largest brain in the animal kingdom and as a comparison, it is claimed that an entire car could fit in it! By its morphology alone, the sperm whale hence appears like an all-round champion of cetaceans.

Abyssal divers

 Sperm whales are some of the best divers among air-breathing sea creatures. They have been recorded down to 2,250 m, and sperm whale carcasses have been found entangled in deep-sea cables suggesting that they can dive even deeper. In these dark and cold waters, sperm whales hunt for fish and squids (and sometimes check out ROVs, see videos of a surprising deep sea encounter made in 2015 off the coast of Louisiana, on Nautilus Live). They are renowned for attacking giant (Architeuthis spp) and colossal (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) squids, which can reach more than 10 m in length. The squid sucker scars born by sperm whales give evidence of these titan combats. Because sperm whales only have teeth on the lower jaw, they cannot chew and may end up eating their prey alive. But every problem has its solution… sperm whales have evolved the longest digestive system in the world: it can reach 300 m long! Their stomach is divided into four compartments, the first of which is covered by a thick and muscular lining that can resist the assault of live prey.

Deluxe poopers  

The digestion of sperm whale prey happens in the next digestive compartments, but one component will resist: the squids’ beaks! As beaks accumulate in the digestive system (up to 18,000 beaks were found in a specimen!), they cause an irritation that is responsible for the production of a waxy substance known as ‘ambergris’. After a while, this substance is thought to be occasionally secreted along with the whale’s poop (although it has been speculated that large pieces of ambergris might be expelled by the mouth… charming!). Ambergris may be found floating at sea or washed up on coastlines, where it may make one happy beachcomber! The latest report of such a lucky finding of ambergris in 2016 was estimated at more than US$71,000 for a 1.57 kg lump. Indeed, ambergris is a valued additive used in perfume, although it has now mostly been replaced by synthetic equivalents. The use of ambergris in cooking, incense or medication in ancient Egypt and the Middle Ages is also reported.

Ambergris lump found in the UK in 2018 (photo credit: APEX, source:

Caring whales

Sperm whales are highly social animals. They are organized in “clans” with their own vocal repertoire and behavioral traits that differ geographically. Clans are formed by several connected social units, which are ruled by a complex matrilineal system. While adult males typically live solitary lives, females remain in family units composed of their close female relatives. Within these groups, females take communal care of the calves, even nursing the calves of other females. Every female can act as a babysitter to the group’s calves at the surface while the clan members perform deep foraging dives of approximately 40 min. Juvenile males may also provide care to the younger calves in the group as they remain in the group far past weaning, up to 9 to 19 years old. When attacked by predators (mostly killer whales), all the group members will protect the younger and most vulnerable individuals by adopting a compact formation, either the “marguerite” (facing inwards with their tails out and the young at the center for protection) or the “heads-out” version.

Social interaction in a pod of sperm whales… much like the whale version of a cuddle (photo credit: Tony Wu)

Powerful sonars

Like other toothed whales, sperm whales use sound to echolocate and communicate. But again, sperm whales stand out from the crowd with the unique spermaceti organ that allows them to produce the most powerful sound in the animal kingdom, reaching a source level of about 230 dB within frequencies of 5 to 25 kHz (this is louder than the sound of a jet engine at take-off). The spermaceti organ is a large cavity surrounded by a tough and fibrous wall called “the case”, and is filled with up to 1,900 liters of a fatty and waxy liquid called “spermaceti”. The spermaceti oil is chemically very different from the oils found in the melons (heads) of most other species of odontocetes, which also explains why sperm whales were particularly targeted by whalers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Indeed, the spermaceti oil has exceptional lubricant properties, and thus was used in fine machinery and even in the aerospace industry.

Original figure from Raven & Gregory 1933

Sperm whales are among the most widely distributed animals in the world, as they roam waters from the ice-edge to the equator. While pre-whaling global abundance is thought to have been 1,110,000 sperm whales, the most recent estimate suggests that only about a third of this number currently populates the ocean. It is our absolute duty to make sure that these marvelous, superlative animals recover from our past mistakes and that they can be admired by future generations.


Gero, Shane, Jonathan Gordon, and Hal Whitehead (2013) “Calves as Social Hubs: Dynamics of the Social Network within Sperm Whale Units.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 280 (1763).

Graber, Cynthia (2007) “Strange but True: Whale Waste Is Extremely Valuable.” Scientific American.

Møhl, Bertel, Magnus Wahlberg, Peter T. Madsen, Anders Heerfordt, and Anders Lund (2003) “The Monopulsed Nature of Sperm Whale Clicks.” The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 114 (2): 1143–54.

Raven, H C, and William K Gregory (1933) “The Spermaceti Organ and Nasal Passages of the Sperm Whale (Physeter Catodon) and Other Odontocetes.” American Museum Novitates, no. 677.

Whitehead, Hal (2018) “Sperm Whale.” Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, 919–25.

A Multidisciplinary Treasure Hunt: Learning about Indigenous Whaling in Oregon

By Rachel Kaplan, PhD student, OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Lab

At this year’s virtual State of the Coast conference, I enjoyed tuning into a range of great talks, including one by Zach Penney from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. In his presentation, “More Than a Tradition: Treaty rights and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission,” Penney described a tribal “covenant with resources,” and noted the success of this approach — “You don’t live in a place for 15,000 years by messing it up.”

Indigenous management of resources in the Pacific Northwest dates back thousands of years. From oak savannahs to fisheries to fires, local tribes managed diverse natural systems long before colonial settlement of the area that is now Oregon. We know comparatively little, however, about how Indigenous groups in Oregon interacted with whale populations before the changes brought by colonialism and commercial whaling.

Makah hunters in Washington bring a harvested whale into Neah Bay (Asahel Curtis/Washington State Historical Society).

I’m curious about how this missing knowledge could inform our understanding of the coastal Oregon ecosystems in which many GEMM Lab projects take place. My graduate research will be part of the effort to identify co-occurrence between whales and fishing in Oregon, with the goal of helping to reduce whale entanglement risk. Penney’s talk, ongoing conversations about decolonizing science, and my own concerns about becoming the scientist that I want to be, have all led me to ask a new set of questions: What did humans know in the past about whale distributions along the Oregon coast? What lost knowledge can be reclaimed from history?

As I started reading about historical Indigenous whale use in Oregon, I was struck by how little we know today, and how this learning process became a multidisciplinary treasure hunt. Clues as to how Indigenous groups interacted with whales along the Oregon coast lie in oral histories, myths, journals, and archaeological artifacts. 

Much of what I read hinged on the question: did Indigenous tribes in Oregon historically hunt whales? Many signs point to yes, but it’s a surprisingly tricky question to answer conclusively. Marine systems and animals, including seals and whales, remain an important part of cultures in the Pacific Northwest today – but historically, documentation of hunting whales in Oregon has been limited. Whale bones have been found in coastal middens, and written accounts describe opportunistic harvests of beached whales. However, people have long believed that only a few North American tribes outside of the Arctic regularly hunted whales. 

But in 2007, archaeologists Robert Losey and Dongya Yang found an artifact that started to shift this narrative. While studying a collection of tools housed at the Smithsonian Institution, they discovered the tip of a harpoon lodged in a whale flipper bone. This artifact came from the Partee site, which was inhabited around AD 300-1150 and is located near present-day Seaside, Oregon.

A gray whale ulna with cut marks found at the Partee site (Wellman, et al. 2017).

Through DNA testing, Losey and Yang determined that the harpoon was made of elk bone, and that the elk was not only harvested locally, but also used locally. This new piece of evidence suggested that whaling did in fact take place at the Partee site, likely by the Tillamook or Clatsop tribes that utilized this area.

Several years later, this discovery inspired Smithsonian Museum of Natural History archaeologist Torben Rick and University of Oregon PhD student Hannah Wellman to comb through the rest of the animal remains in the Smithsonian’s collection from northwest Oregon. Rick and Wellman scrutinized 187 whale bones for signs of hunting or processing, and found that about a quarter of the marks they inspected could have come from either hunting or the opportunistic harvest of stranded whales. They examined tools from the midden as well, and found that they were more suited to hunting animals, like seals and sea lions, or fishing. 

However, Wellman and Rick also used DNA testing to identify which whale species were represented in the midden – and the DNA analyses suggested a different story. Genetic results revealed that the majority of whale bones in the midden came from gray whales, a third from humpback whales, and a few from orca and minke. Modern gray whale stranding events are not uncommon, and so it follows logically that these bones could have simply come from people harvesting beached whales. However, humpback strandings are rare – suggesting that such a large proportion of humpback bones in the midden is likely evidence of people actively hunting humpback whales.

Percentage of whale species identified at the Partee site and percentage of species in the modern stranding record for the Oregon Coast (Wellman, et al. 2017).

These results shed new light on whale harvesting practices at the Partee Site, and, like so much research, they suggest a new set of questions. What does the fact that there were orca, minke, gray, and humpback whales off the Oregon coast 900 years ago tell us about the history of this ecosystem? Could artifacts that have not yet been found provide more conclusive evidence of hunting? What would it mean if these artifacts are found one day, or if they are never found?

As this fascinating research continues, I hope that new discoveries will continue to deepen our understanding of historic Indigenous whaling practices in Oregon – and that this information can find a place in contemporary conversations. Indigenous whaling rights are both a contemporary and contentious issue in the Pacific Northwest, and the way that humans learn about the past has much to do with how we shape the present. 

What we learn about the past can also change how we understand this ecosystem today, and provide new context as we try to understand the impacts of climate change on whale populations in Oregon. I’m interested in how learning more about historical Indigenous whaling practices could provide more information about whale population baselines, ideas for management strategies, and a new lens on the importance of whales in the Pacific Northwest. Even if we can’t fully reclaim lost knowledge from history, maybe we can still read enough clues to help us see both the past and present more fully.


Braun, Ashley. “New Research Offers a Wider View on Indigenous North American Whaling.” Hakai Magazine, November 2016, 

Eligon, John. “A Native Tribe Wants to Resume Whaling. Whale Defenders Are Divided.” New York Times, November 2019. 

Hannah P. Wellman, Torben C. Rick, Antonia T. Rodrigues & Dongya Y. Yang (2017) Evaluating Ancient Whale Exploitation on the Northern Oregon Coast Through Ancient DNA and Zooarchaeological Analysis, The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, 12:2, 255-275, DOI: 10.1080/15564894.2016.1172382

Losey, R., & Yang, D. (2007). Opportunistic Whale Hunting on the Southern Northwest Coast: Ancient DNA, Artifact, and Ethnographic Evidence. American Antiquity, 72(4), 657-676. doi:10.2307/25470439

Sanchez, Gabriel (2014). Conference paper: Cetacean Hunting at the Par-Tee site (35CLT20)?: Ethnographic, Artifact and Blood Residue Analysis Investigation.