Marine Animal Stranding Studies Advance Science

In winter 2012, an unprecedented number of dolphins—nearly 180—stranded in Cape Cod Bay. Of those animals, 108 were dead on discovery, and 53 of the 71 found alive were successfully returned to the ocean.

Researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Marine Mammal Center (MMC), working with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), believe the survival rate could be higher if we better understood dolphin physiology and behavior. They conduct the fundamental science that underpins IFAW's emergency response and aim to understand why strandings are happening now and how we can prevent them in the future.

Working in collaboration with local and national partners, we are pursuing this challenge on three fronts:

  • Before strandings: MMC Director Michael Moore and his colleagues are developing an acoustic monitoring system that can warn stranding responders of unusually high numbers of dolphins and whales in the monitored area.
  • During strandings: WHOI scientists frequently work with IFAW and other members of the National Marine Mammal Stranding Network to provide critical scientific and response support.
  • After strandings: In order to better understand what causes marine mammals to strand, researchers employ WHOI’s imaging systems and state-of-the-art necropsy suite to investigate the natural and anthropogenic stressors that might cause them to strand.

Understanding marine mammal strandings is vital for protecting threatened and endangered species and our environment. We need your help to learn more about what's going on in our one ocean. Visit the links on the right to read more about our work, and click on the link below to support it. Every gift matters.

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Common Dolphin Strandings

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(Photo courtesy of the International Fund for Animal Welfare)

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