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WebQuest: Sensory Biology and the

Plight of the Right Whales

Created by Drs. Jill C. Fegley and Sara M. Lindsay, University of Maine

Introduction Task Process Evaluation Conclusion Teacher Page Credits


Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act requires a reduction in the number of human-induced injuries to right whales. It also requires that an Early Warning System be developed which would alert mariners to the presence of right whales to diminish the number of collisions with ships. This act also requires Maine fishermen to modify their fishing gear in areas where whales are common as part of an overall management plan for the reduction of right whale entanglements.

You are part of a team of specialists whose mission is to aid right whale conservation efforts by devising a method to reduce whale mortality from either entanglement or ship collisions. Your team will explore the feeding behavior, migration patterns and geographical distribution of Northern right whales. In addition, one member of the team will research the sensory biology of whales to determine how they "see" and "hear" in their environment. Another specialist will examine current research and technology involving sonar and echolocation. Specific issues associated with whale entanglements and collisions will also be explored.

Based on what you learn about the sensory biology of right whales your team will devise innovative technology that will reduce whale mortalities and potentially save this species from extinction. You have been asked by a national funding agency to travel to Washington, D.C. to present your idea to a panel of governmental scientists. Several teams of specialists are competing for limited funding. The team with the most innovative and feasible idea will have their project funded. The funding agency requires a short, written proposal (1-2 pages) and a PowerPoint presentation.

Good luck!

Other Endangered Marine Species

Picture of Crocodile

Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)

Picture of Manatee

West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus)

Picture of Humpback whale

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Picture of Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
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Fegley & Lindsay -Last Updated October 2006