The Pacific Life Foundation has been sponsoring the Southern California Marine Mammal Workshop (SCMMW) since 2010.
The SCMMW is organized by and for researchers with the aim of fostering discussion and collaboration within the Southern California marine mammal research community.

2014 SCMMW - ReportPDF, ProgramPDF and Poster AbstractsPDF

The 2014 Workshop sessions included:

Basic Behavioral Research: Techniques and Analyses

One of the basic research techniques of studying presence, numbers, social behaviors, and societies of animals is to identify them, and relatively non-invasive photography has been a wonderful mainstay of cetacean research for several decades. As well, high resolution videography is making possible the detailed descriptions of social interactions among members of a group. These techniques, ever more electromechanically sophisticated and rapidly becoming less expensive than years ago, are being augmented by sophisticated analyses of social context and the statistical application of behavioral response analyses relative to anthropogenic activities. The panel includes experts on photo-identification, videography, social context analyses, and behavioral response analyses, with both historic background and present trends highlighted.

Behavioral Research: New Methods and Approaches

This session will focus on some of the new approaches to behavioral research including those using new technologies such as archival tags, satellite tags, and acoustics and also how behavioral monitoring in support of assessing human impacts and responses to anthropogenic sounds.

Arrested Development: Marine Mammal Law and Ethics

The early 1970s witnessed the passage of several landmark environmental laws in the United States. Many of these statutes affected marine mammals and other protected species indirectly, but the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act were focused specifically on the conservation and protection of these animals. Confusion over the requirements of permit applications and approvals, and the lack of clarity in the definition of legal terms are all issues that have arisen since these laws were passed. Because of their intelligence, visibility, and frequent interactions with humans, marine mammals hold a special place in the minds of most people and the ethical treatment of these animals has sparked debate. Ethical dilemmas are those situations where there is a choice to be made between two options, neither of which may resolve the situation, nor assumes that the chooser will abide by societal norms. As we continue to make advances in science and technology, emerging ethical dilemmas and policy will also occur and it is important, as marine mammal scientists, to understand the laws that protect and conserve them, particularly as ethical issues develop. The panel includes experts on the MMPA, ESA, policy, and regulations.

Communicating Science in Practice

Recognized scientists with literary acumen, journalists, writers and media relations professionals are among this year's invited speakers. They will explore the communication of science on the page, on the screen, and on the stage, illuminating the process of translating science for the public. The guest speakers will interact with workshop participants so the audience will be able to learn first-hand some of the tools necessary to switch from theory to communication. The scope will cover a variety of questions, including: how to edit scientific data into a concise press release and what a scientist needs to know when interviewed by TV, radio or print reporters on specific issues. Part of the panel will also be devoted to students interested in learning more about how to get their message across in an oral presentation and what type of information needs to be included in an abstract or a poster.

Marine Mammals in Captivity

This session will focus on the value of captive marine mammals to marine mammal conservation efforts. The panel will include experts in science, health, conservation, education, and ethics. The major questions that the panel will be asked to address include (1) what are the major benefits of holding and using captive marine mammals for conservation purposes, (2) what are the associated risks, (3) what do we envision as the ideal situation with regard to captive animals (what should we be striving for), and (4) how can we reconcile humanitarian concerns/risks focused on individuals versus conservation concerns regarding wild populations. The audience will be invited to participate in the last half-hour of discussion.

California sea lion Unusual Mortality Event 2013 in the context of population dynamics. To be or not to be: when is Unusual Usual?

An Unusual Mortality Event (UME) is defined under the Marine Mammal Protection Act as: "a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response." In recent years, increased efforts to examine carcasses and live stranded animals have improved the knowledge of mortality rates and causes, allowing a better understanding of population threats and the ability to determine when a situation is "unusual." Thus there may be increases in numbers of stranded animals due to epidemics such as leptospirosis or harmful algal blooms that in places such as California with a relatively well studied stranded population of California sea lions, are not unexpected yet do demand a response. In California, further complexity arises due to the increasing population of both humans and California sea lions resulting in increased potential for recognition of strandings. This workshop will discuss the interactions among California sea lion population dynamics, prey availability, previous epidemics and toxicoses and the recent "unusual mortality event".

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