SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 11, April 2016 - Page 96

Puerto Rico

Humpback Whale

Research Project

By Mithriel M. MacKay and Cathy E. Bacon

The Marine and Coastal Ecology Research Center (MCERC) is dedicated to providing research and education opportunities aimed at increasing an investment in conservation and preservation of healthy marine and coastal ecosystems. MCERC supports scientific research of marine habitats and encourages participation of investigators with a similar mission. We welcome collaborations with scientists and university students who are invested in the MCERC mission.

The Marine and Coastal Ecology Research Center’s focal project investigates North Atlantic humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) wintering off Puerto Rico. Humpback whales migrate from the North Atlantic feeding grounds aggregating in lower latitudes with the majority of individuals off Dominican Republic. Fewer individuals migrate further south to areas including coastal Puerto Rico, Mona Passage.

Research platforms include land and boat observations aimed at characterizing occupancy, movement, and habitat-use in waters off Puerto Rico. Analysis of data obtained via passive acoustic monitoring (including opportunistic data collected since 2006 in Mona Passage) are suggesting interesting patterns of behaviors in this small fringe population.

The research team consists of the principal investigator (Mithriel MacKay, Ph.D.), senior scientists, support team (boat captain and experienced naturalists), interns, and students. Colleagues join our research team each winter sharing experience and collaborating with a goal of continuous improvement in data collection, management, and analysis. Volunteers are an important part of support team scanning the coastline for humpback whale singletons, pairs, mothers, and calves. The collaboration of the research team with volunteers enables a broader scope of coverage along the Puerto Rican coastline and smaller, offshore islands.

/ or contact Dr. MacKay at