Current Research - Blue Whale Genetics

Background                                                                                                               
Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are currently classified as endangered due to 20th century whaling practices dramatically reducing their abundance worldwide. Blue whales are very difficult to study due to their high mobility and pelagic lifestyle
, and therefore little is known about them. However research is required to aid in management and conservation decisions.

In Australia there are two known feeding aggregations: the Perth Canyon (off Rottnest Island, Western Australia) and the Bonney Upwelling (off south-west Victoria and south-east South Australia). Blue whales are also reliably sighted in Geographe Bay (Western Australia), though the function of the bay to blue whales is currently unknown.



Research                                                             
Data collection and genetic analysis involves obtaining skin samples, extracting DNA, and then using genetic markers to determine, for example, the degree of mixing between populations and genetic diversity.

Using genetic data I have found that the two known feeding aggregations of blue whales in Australia constitute the same breeding stock  (see publication Attard et al. 2010). This means anthropogenic activities occurring at either feeding aggregations will have consequences for the same breeding stock. I am currently researching the genetic identity of the Geographe Bay blue whales, and population history of Australian blue whales.