Comprehensive stranding investigations for priority species such as beaked whales, false killer whales, melon-headed whales, pilot whales and pygmy killer whales are needed by the Navy to better understand the what, where, when and why of marine mammal strandings. This requires mounting an immediate response to each newly reported stranding event that occurs over the project duration and conducting extensive necropsy examinations, including histopathology, disease surveillance, and tissue sampling in support of numerous research efforts aimed at better understanding Hawaiian and Marianas cetaceans. In addition, investigations of both new and archived tissue samples may shed light on causes of death, in particular the presence of newly described or newly testable diseases. Using stranding records, the University of Hawaii will investigate if any species show seasonal or temporal stranding patterns.
In this study the University of Hawaii will address several research needs: (1) Conduct stranding response, necropsy and cause of death investigations for high priority species when strandings occur over the project duration; (2) Conduct laboratory analyses of archived tissues from previously stranded priority cetacean species to complete comprehensive stranding investigations (3) Conduct laboratory analyses for endangered insular false killer whales to better understand habitat utilization of this species in Hawaii; (4) Conduct laboratory disease screening of specific diseases known to contribute toward mortality; (5) Analyze stranding records for stranding patterns.
Location: Hawaii, Guam, CNMI
Funding: FY18 $118k, FY20 $324k; FY21 TBD
Principal Investigator, Dr. Kristi West, Stranding Lab, University of Hawaii
Program Manager (comprehensive stranding investigation), Julie Rivers, Pacific Fleet Environmental Readiness Division
Project manager (disease, stranding pattern), Dr. Jessica Chen, NAVFAC Pacific