Rancho Palos Verdes, San Pedro, and Redondo Beach, California, US — Grey whales were the first great whales to be removed from the endangered species list, but their future is by no means certain. They typically spend their summers feeding in the plankton-rich waters of the Bering and Chuckchi Seas in Canada and their winters off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, where their calves are born. The whales generally migrate through Southern California waters from December through April.
However, recent evidence suggests that some of these whales are feeding in the winter and mating in the fall, challenging the assumptions underlying grey whale conservation plans. Dr. William Megill, Dr. Lei Lani Stelle, Dr. David Duffus, and colleagues are taking a new look at how much grey whales are eating at each end of the migration, and what impact varying prey abundance will have on the whales. You can join Dr. Stelle in California this winter and spring to help their efforts to improve the conservation of this unique cetacean.
Meet the Scientists
Dr. William Megill
University of Bath;
Coastal Ecosystems Research Foundation
Dr. William M. Megill is a Lecturer in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Bath in England, where he directs the University's Ocean Technologies Laboratory, Adjunct Associate Professor in Geography at the University of Victoria, and Research Director of the Coastal Ecosystems Research Foundation (CERF). A Canadian from Montreal who completed his B.Sc. in Physics at McGill University, William spent three years working on the biology and ecology of fin and humpback whales in eastern Quebec before moving to Canada's west coast to study ecology at the University of British Columbia. He founded CERF in 1993 to fund research on gray whales and coastal ecology, and has directed it ever since, overseeing its growth from a single-boat operation to the multi-institutional collaboration it is today. Alongside CERF, he completed a Ph.D. on the mechanics of swimming in jellyfish, then followed that with a post-doctoral fellowship in Australia on breast tissue, bra design and artificial muscles. He was appointed to his current post in Bath in September 2003, and now divides his time between engineering (design of submersibles and underwater sensor systems) in England and ecology in the North Pacific. William is interested primarily in how to map the biodiversity of the coastal ecosystem, and what role the whales play in structuring it.
Dr. Lei Lani Stelle
University of Redlands;
Coastal Ecosystems Research Foundation
Dr. Lei Lani Stelle is an Assistant Professor at University of Redlands, in California. A Californian born in Hawai'i, Lei Lani completed her B.A. in Marine Biology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, then earned an M.Sc. in Zoology on the swimming biomechanics of Steller sea lions at the University of British Columbia. She joined CERF in 1997 and completed her Ph.D. at UCLA on the ecological interactions between gray whales and mysids (swarming zooplankton). She spent 6 years as an Assistant Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. While landlocked, she started investigating a pseudo marine mammal, the river otter; this research project then expanded to BC where the same species forages in the marine system. She recently returned to California so she could resume her gray whale research in BC, Baja, and along their migratory route. Her interest focus on physiological ecology, especially the foraging ecology of gray whales and comparing river otter populations feeding in freshwater (in NY) with those in marine waters (in BC).
Dr. David Duffus
Whale Research Lab, University of Victoria
Dr David Duffus is an Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Victoria and founding director of the Society for Ecological and Coastal Research (SEACR) and UVic WhaleLab. He came to BC to study the interaction between the then nascent whale-watching industry and whales in Vancouver Island waters beginning in 1984. He completed his Ph.D. in 1988 and has been involved in marine mammal and conservation projects in a variety of locations ever since. He founded the Clayoquot Sound project in 1986 and has maintained research projects there on a wide variety of topics since that time. He teaches several graduate and undergraduate courses in biogeography and coastal ecology, and is the driving force behind the science at WhaleLab.