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50 Maui Whale Watch Magazine • WhaleWatchingOnMaui.com Dr. Phil Clapham is currently the Program Leader for the US National Marine Mammal Laboratory's Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program--part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Alaska Fisheries Science Center based in Seattle. Dr. Clapham has studied almost every whale species, and as of this writing he has published over 150 peer-reviewed papers. He is a member of the US delegation to the International Whaling Commission's Scientific Committee, and he was recently chosen by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to be their speaker for the 2016 Revelle Lecture, which focuses on the connections between marine science and public policy. Dr. Clapham was kind enough to speak with me via Skype from Seattle one August morning in 2015 so we could learn from his whale world expertise. Fonarow: Dr. Clapham, I read that you first found yourself doing whale research by accident. How did that happen? Clapham: In 1980 I was traveling around the US from England, and while looking for a place to stay for the winter, I fell in love with Cape Cod. Four days after I arrived, I saw a humpback whale breach, and I had no idea what I was looking at. Someone told me that studies of whales were going on at the Center for Coastal Studies nearby. I knocked on their door and asked if I could volunteer, and surprisingly, they said, "Sure!" I fell in love with whales and whale research, and decided years later to go back to school to get a PhD in zoology. That's the short version. Fonarow: How has the field of whale research changed over time? Clapham: Genetics began to be applied in the 1980s, and that opened up a whole suite of opportunities in this field. With just a small biopsy sample, determining Fonarow: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far? Clapham: Marrying my wife. I have the world's most wonderful woman, and I have no idea how I got her to marry me. I wake up every morning and say, "Yeah, it wasn't a dream. She really is here." So, my second greatest achievement? I don't know, actually. For my PhD, I tried to synthesize what we knew about the behavioral ecology of humpback whales with the broader context of mammalian and animal biology. I think I was reasonably successful. People have done a better job of it since, as we've learned more. And the other thing that I do--as penance for something terrible I did in a past life, apparently-is deal with Japan on scientific whaling on the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Fonarow: Can you tell us more about your experience in the IWC? Clapham: The IWC passed a moratorium on commercial whaling which came into effect in 1985, and it contains two massive loopholes: the objection procedure--which allows countries to not be bound by any decision if they object within 90 CLAPHAM h a s b e e n s t u d y i n g l a r g e w h a l e s f o r t h e l a s t t h i r t y - fi v e y e a r s . INTERVIEW ABOVE | Kagoshima City, Japan, April 27, 2008, Whaling ship Yushin Maru, a ship that hunts and harpoons whales. OPPOSITE | Coral reef completely decimated as the result of ocean acidification. the sex and genetics of a whale suddenly became routine. Now, we also use hormone analysis to look at issues like stress and pregnancy. We use unmanned aerial vehicles like hexacopters to get length and girth measurements and even to fly down and sample the animals' breath for pathogens and other health indicators. Also, there are far more women involved in senior positions than when I started. There used to be a very strong male sex bias in the upper ranks, but that has changed radically in the last thirty-five years—thank heaven! Fonarow: Those of us who spend time in Hawaii are wondering, "Why don't the humpbacks just stay here? It's warmer!" Clapham: There's nothing to eat in Hawaii. There's very low productivity in tropical waters, and why they migrate here in the first place remains something of a mystery. There's no agreed explanation as to why humpbacks and some other large whales leave productive feeding grounds and travel to warmer waters. It may be because it's a safer, warmer place for calves to be born and grow in their first weeks of life. Fonarow: What are you working on right now? Clapham: I manage a group of twenty-six researchers who study everything from porpoises to large whales. Because I'm "senior" in the field, I get to lead the group and arrange fun things for them to do. [Laughing] Among other things, we are conducting research in the Arctic using aerial surveys; we have an upcoming cruise involving oceanography, acoustics, and basic whale biology in the Bering and Chukchi Seas; we study harbor porpoises and killer whales in Southeast Alaska. Two of the world's few satellite taggers are on our team, so we have a tag out right now in Oman in the Arabian Sea, and we may be tagging right whales off Argentina this fall. We're very much into worldwide collaboration and sharing of information. BY AMY FONAROW

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