Marine Mammal Research is Easier When the Animals Help Out

Written by on January 27, 2014 in Other News

Daily Summary


Manatee. Photo credit: NOAA.

A New Paradigm for Animal Research: Let Them Participate
In most cases when marine mammal researchers need to take a blood sample or treat a wound, the animal has to be taken out of the water and restrained by several people. That’s not the case at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida where the manatees are trained to participate in behavioral research and hold still for a medical examination. Most of the animals living at Mote are injured and can’t be released into the wild. Here, the researchers have learned that it’s a lot easier to answer scientific questions when they ask the animal to take part in the research. And it’s pretty easy to get the manatees involved when they’re properly motivated with apples, carrots and beets!


Alvin. Photo credit: NOAA.

Deep Diving Sub Alvin Cleared to Return to Service
The United States’ deepest-diving research submarine, Alvin, has been out of service since December 2010. Now, after a three-year overhaul, Alvin is ready to return to the depths with major upgrades. The Naval Sea Systems Command has certified that the sub can operate to depths of 3800 meters and it is expected to receive a certification to dive to 4500 meters later this year. The upgrades and the certification are results of a successful partnership between the National Science Foundation, the Navy and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Alvin‘s next mission will be a “science verification” cruise in mid-March, during which researchers will ensure that the data acquisition and sampling systems are working properly.

Lolita's tank at the Miami Seaquarium.

Lolita’s tank at the Miami Seaquarium. Photo credit: Miami.FlyMe via photopin cc.

Feds want endangered status for captive orca Lolita
Lolita the orca was taken from the wild and sold into a life of captivity at the Miami Seaquarium where she has lived for more than 40 years. Activists have been trying to secure her release for a long time but they haven’t made much progress until now. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reversed its previous decision and recommended that Lolita should be governed by the same law (the Endangered Species Act) that protects her former pod, Puget Sound’s wild southern resident killer whales. It’s not clear if this decision will affect the campaign to have her returned to the wild, but it certainly could have implications for other endangered species held by zoos and aquariums around the country. It is also likely to lead to a re-evaluation of Lolita’s living conditions, which activists have long complained about. NOAA will accept public comment until March 28, so if you want to share your thoughts or opinions on Lolita and her future, you have some time. If you’re new to the Lolita saga, you might want to take a look at this video, A Day in the Life of Lolita, the Performing Orca, which was filmed at the Miami Seaquarium last summer (2013).

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. Thank you for sharing your articles with us, it was very interesting to read about the animals that are training to participate in behavioural research for people to examine them and to do what is needed to help them. I am always amazed with learning new things about animals and how clever they really are. Thanks again, I enjoyed reading your articles.