By Joe Gaydos. For more than a week, a female Southern Resident Killer Whale has been carrying her dead calf around the Salish Sea.
J35, the 20-year-old orca also known as Tahlequah, gave birth on July 24th, but the baby girl died just a short time later. Since then, people around the world have watched as this young mother has appeared to grieve.
Primates, including Gelada baboons, Japanese macaques, chimpanzees and mountain gorillas have been shown to carry around dead babies even though, as one researcher commented, it "is a waste of energy and seems to be of no benefit to the mother."
What do red urchins, Pacific sand lance and scientific trawling of the seafloor all have in common?
All three exist at depths that can’t be easily observed by scientists -- that is unless you bring in some fancy tools. Enter SeaDoc and our friends at OceanGate Foundation, with whom we’ve partnered to bring a submarine (a manned submersible called Cyclops 1) to the San Juan Islands this September. We funded three unique research projects, none of which would be possible without this incredible piece of machinery to carry our teams.
Every summer, SeaDoc brings one or more rising third-year veterinary students to Orcas Island to assist with research projects in conjunction with the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor. The eight-week internship is a great opportunity for vet students to get involved in wildlife health issues.
Predator-prey relationships are strong evolutionary drivers and prime movers and shapers of our natural world. They also make for dramatic stories that seem to portray black-and-white cases of cause and effect. Ecosystems, however, function at such a high level of complexity that seldom are things as straightforward as they appear.
In Yellowstone, introduced wolves take down elk and the park’s forests grow and streams revert to meandering courses. In the Salish Sea, seals and sea lions are protected and salmon populations crash. Along the Pacific flyway, we stop poisoning and shooting bald eagles and suddenly seabirds are struggling.