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Press Release:

MEDIA CONTACT: Mr. Jan Petri
772-242-2241, petri@hboi.fau.edu

                                 
                                                  

FAU’s Harbor Branch to Highlight Earth Day with Right Whales Program


            BOCA RATON, FL (April 8, 2010) – The Friends of Harbor Branch will celebrate Earth Day on April 22 with a public program, “Right Whales in Florida.”  The program will begin at 2 p.m. in the Johnson Education Center, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, located at 5600 US 1 North in Fort Pierce, and will conclude with a reception at 5:30 p.m.  The reception will provide an opportunity for those in attendance to meet the presenters.  

The program uses right whale recovery efforts as a barometer of ocean health.  The presentation will include a discussion on right whale tracking and identification programs, acoustic monitoring, the volunteer spotter network, Florida ship strike reduction efforts and the Florida program for disentanglement of whales.

             Steve McCulloch, founder and manager of Harbor Branch’s marine mammal research and conservation program, will moderate the panel discussion.  "We are going to use Earth Day to call attention to the more than 12 species of whales that spend some part of the year in Florida's coastal waters, including the most endangered of all the great whales, the North Atlantic right whale. These gentle giants, whose population totals approximately 400 only, migrate to Florida each year, seeking warm water refuge with their calves.”   

The expert panel will include:

 Jim Hain, Ph.D., is an associated scientist at Woods Hole and heads the Marineland Right Whale Project.  Hain has been a whale researcher for many years and has been instrumental in developing methods for whale location and movements with small unmanned blimps, large manned blimps, and most recently, the AirCam, a small manned airplane.  Hain also established the Marineland Right Whale Monitoring Project, which uses volunteers to man fixed and mobile sighting stations to document right whale movements. Now in its 10th year, this volunteer project also collaborates with the Marine Resources Council's broader volunteer spotter network.

            Florida Atlantic University’s Ed Gerstein, Ph.D., director of marine mammal behavior and biology, participates in the Marineland Right Whale Project as a leading expert in monitoring marine mammals’ movements using acoustics. Recently, he joined the Marineland project to attempt to locate and monitor right whale movements using acoustic techniques. Gerstein has successfully monitored not only adult and juvenile right whales but also the elusive mother/calf pairs that use our waters as a winter calving ground.

             Julie Albert, whale program coordinator for the Marine Resources Council (MRC), directs both the MRC's right whale education projects that provide education for the general public on the importance of right whales and the MRC's Right Whale Spotter Network, the largest volunteer-based scientific network in the U.S.  The spotter network is often able to provide pictures of right whales that can be used to identify the animals and add to the database the animals’ movements, and in the case of mothers, their calving history.

            Tom Pitchford, wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), is co-chairman of the Southeast Implementation Team for Right Whale Recovery (SEIT).  He also coordinates disentanglement work for the state, a critical contribution to whales that have become entangled in fishing nets and mooring lines in these waters.  Pitchford also coordinates the state’s air surveys and photo identification of whales, as well as ship strike reduction efforts in state waters. 

The program is sponsored by the Friends of Harbor Branch and the Protect Florida Whales specialty license plate, and is open to the public at no charge. For more information, call 772-465-2400, ext. 559.

- FAU -

About Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute:
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University is a research institute dedicated to exploration, innovation, conservation and education related to the oceans.  Harbor Branch was founded in 1971 as a private non-profit organization. In December 2007, Harbor Branch joined Florida Atlantic University. The institute specializes in ocean engineering, at-sea operations, drug discovery and biotechnology from the oceans, coastal ecology and conservation, marine mammal research and conservation, aquaculture, and marine education. For more information, visit www.hboi.fau.edu .

About Florida Atlantic University:
Florida Atlantic University opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. Building on its rich tradition as a teaching university, with a world-class faculty, FAU hosts 10 colleges:  College of Architecture, Urban & Public Affairs, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science, the College of Business, the College of Education, the College of  Engineering & Computer Science, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Graduate College, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the
Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. For more information, visit www.fau.edu .

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