--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE--
August 4, 2011
Contact: Tatiana Brailovskaya, Director of Communications, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, (207) 633-9633; firstname.lastname@example.org
National Geographic Expedition Winner Dash Masland at Bigelow Laboratory’s August 16 Café Scientifique
WEST BOOTHBAY HARBOR, ME – Bigelow Laboratory Research Technician Dash Masland, winner of the 2011 National Geographic Young Explorers Expedition Granted Competition, will lead a discussion about her research on endangered Hawaiian monk seals at the Laboratory’s Café Scientifique on Tuesday August 16 at 6 p.m. in the Boothbay Harbor Opera House, 86 Townsend Avenue in Boothbay Harbor. Masland’s talk, titled Expedition Granted! National Geographic, DNA Dietary Studies, and Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals, will also describe the experience of competing in the nationwide, month-long online election that made her project possible.
Masland is studying the dietary habits of endangered Hawaiian monk seals, using DNA analysis to determine the diet of a small population of monk seals in order to help develop more effective conservation strategies.
“The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, “ said Masland. “With the population decreasing at 4% a year and only around 1,100 individuals left, this charismatic and important marine mammal may not survive much longer. Monk seal pups have a less than a 1 in 5 chance of making it to adulthood and one contributing factor appears to be that monk seal pups are dying of starvation.”
Monk seals were hunted nearly to extinction in the nineteenth century, but the population has been fully protected in recent decades. The seals’ primary habitat in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands is home to 900 monk seals and has been is designated as a marine park for many years, but the population is still not recovering. A small population in the Main Hawaiian Islands is growing, however, and Masland is using the latest technology in marine mammal dietary studies to determine what is helping these seals survive and grow, and how this information can be used to help the larger population.
A member of the research staff at Bigelow Laboratory’s Single Cell Genomics Center, Masland studied the diet of grey seals off the coast of Maine and Massachusetts as part of her Master of Science program in Marine Biology at the University of New England. She is a certified Divemaster and research scuba diver and has earned multiple sailing certifications.
Café Scientifique talks are free and open to the public, with beer, wine, and sodas available for purchase. This is the eighth of ten Bigelow Laboratory summer science conversations, held every Tuesday evening from 6 to 7 p.m. through August 30. The complete 2011 summer Café Scientifique program is posted on the Laboratory’s website (www.bigelow.org). Sign up for regular email updates about Bigelow Laboratory at www.bigelow.org/news/e_news.
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography -- examining the biology in the world’s oceans at the molecular level -- to the large-scale ocean processes that affect global environmental conditions. Recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, the Laboratory is spurring significant economic growth in the state through construction of a major Ocean Science and Education Campus in East Boothbay.
Photo: Critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Courtesy of NOAA Fisheries Hawaii, taken under NMFS ESA/MMPA Research and Enhancement Permit 10137. ####