2016 Marks 11th Year for LSIESP Gray Whale Research
Developing an information base sufficient to detect, describe, and understand trends in wild cetacean populations and their habitats requires a long term commitment by researchers and resources to sustain the research over many years. Such is the case with the Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Program which has been fortunate to have the ongoing support of a family sponsors since it began in 2006. Thanks to this support 2016 marks the 11th year of the program. The information acquired by our researchers during this period enables us to describe with certainty many details of the gray whales’ biology, behavior, and their winter occupation of Laguna San Ignacio and Bahía Magdalena. Long-term time series information like this unprecedented for any other large cetacean population. We’ve also trained a new generation of researchers that will continue wildlife conservation programs in Baja California and elsewhere.
Our researchers have documented increases and decreases in the number of gray whales that utilize the Laguna San Ignacio habitat, and shifts in the timing of their arrival and departure each winter. Long-term photographic identification research confirms the average time that individual whales spend in this breeding lagoon, the frequency that female whales give birth to calves, the minimum ages of breeding female gray whales (currently 26-46 years), which whales return to this lagoon each winter, and those that move between different lagoons and aggregation areas. Our long-term databases now allow us to correlate the of the gray whales’ behavior with environmental factors such as the El Niño y La Niña cycles (ENSO), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), sea surface temperatures (SST), and the recent history of the population including the major mortality event of 1998-2000. We also have characterized the genetic structure of gray whales from Laguna San Ignacio for comparison with Western gray whales, and the we have began to study the feeding ecology and the areas where they migrate using stable isotopes. We eagerly await additional new findings that the future research will reveal.
Check out these 2016 Reports & Presentations:
(MORE TO COME SHORTLY – CHECK BACK!)