21 April 2023

Fat Forensics

PhD student uses false killer whale blubber to monitor endangered species

Fat Forensics

Blubber under the skin of whales isn’t just a layer of fat, but rather a multifunctional and complex tissue that can indicate an individual’s body condition and health. With only 167 resident false killer whales left in Hawaiian waters, knowing how to track their numbers and overall health has never been more important.

In a new study published in Frontiers, UH researchers have used blubber samples of a false killer whale that died as bycatch in a fishery interaction to inform future monitoring efforts.

“By expanding knowledge of how to best assess the impacts of potential threats to endangered false killer whales, we can better manage local populations,” says Jana Phipps, a PhD student in the Dept. of Human Nutrition, Food, and Animal Sciences who works at the UH Health and Stranding Lab. “Preservation of our oceans and especially the marine mammals who inhabit it is of critical importance to the people of Hawaiʻi.”

Read the UH News story.

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