Effects of Oil, Chemical Dispersant, and Dispersed Oil on the Functional Characteristics of Mysticete Whale Baleen: Proposal for a Study to be Conducted at the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility (OHMSETT)

Michael Moore, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


This is a proposal to support NOAA and the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management (collaborating with Hampden-Sidney College) to conduct two discrete weeks of oil and dispersant research with mysticete whale baleen in the OHMSETT Facility test tank. Mysticete, or baleen, whales are some of the largest animals on earth. Baleen whales are named for the long plates of baleen that hang in a row (like the teeth of a comb) from their upper jaws. Baleen plates are strong and flexible; they are made of a protein similar to human fingernails. Oil spill risk to marine mammals and baleen whales in particular, is not well-known and has been less studied than that for most other marine organisms. In this project, we propose to study the effects of Alaska North Slope crude oil and Corexit 9500A dispersant on the physics and functional characteristics of baleen from two mysticete whale species, the bowhead whale and the humpback whale. The field experiments will take place at the OHMSETT facility during two periods: December 7-11; and January 4-8.