Oceanus: On a wintry Sunday morning in early January, a jogger came across what appeared to be a dolphin in shallow water, on a beach in Long Island, New York. He phoned the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, setting in motion a chain reaction that eventually led to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
Kimberly Durham, Riverhead’s rescue program director, mobilized her team, which responds to marine mammal strandings. On the way to the beach, she received cell phone photos and saw that it was no dolphin, but a rare, 14’ adult female whale—a species called a True’s beaked whale. And there would be no rescue, because the whale had died.
“The necropsy (animal autopsy) could be done just by us,” said Durham, “but in a stranding, it’s important to touch all bases, especially with a rare animal, and such a fresh animal, and pull in every expert you have, to glean as much information as possible.”
From the beach, she called biologist Michael Moore, director of the Marine Mammal Center at WHOI and a specialist in forensic investigations of marine mammal deaths. Moore immediately suggested she call WHOI scientist Darlene Ketten to examine the whale’s head.
Read more about the efforts by Woods Hole researchers to study True’s beaked whales.