Health Assessments of Beluga Whales in Bristol Bay, AK
Leslie Cornick, Ph.D.
Marine & Environmental Sciences
Comprehensive health assessments of healthy animal populations provide important baseline data for assessing the relative health of populations at risk. The Cook Inlet population of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in Alaska was listed as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act in 2008, but they have yet to demonstrate signs of recovery and the causes are not known. In this project we collected comprehensive health status information on the healthy and thriving population of beluga whales in Bristol Bay, Alaska in order to determine the physical and physiological parameters of a healthy population. Data from Cook Inlet belugas can then be compared in order to develop testable hypotheses regarding the failure of the Cook Inlet population to recover since their protection.