Dusky dolphins, one of UAS professor Heidi Pearson's topics at this Friday's Fireside lecture.

Dusky dolphins, one of UAS professor Heidi Pearson's topics at this Friday's Fireside lecture.

Today’s Fireside Lecture centered on humpback whales

University of Alaska Southeast assistant professor Heidi Pearson will present her research on the behavior of humpback whales and dolphins today during two Fireside Lectures at Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. Talks occur at 6:30 p.m. and repeat at 8 p.m.

Pearson will describe how the sea’s rich food resources and the animals’ large brains, high intelligence, and social behavior contribute to the success of whales and dolphins in Juneau and throughout the Pacific.

“Humpback whales are an excellent study species,” Pearson said, “because they are one of the most social of the baleen whales and their populations are increasing in many areas of the world, including Juneau.” Juneau’s humpback whales are part of a larger population that is growing at a rate of nearly seven percent per year. There are an estimated 1,800 humpbacks in the northern part of Southeast Alaska.

A primary focus of Pearson’s research is to better understand how whales and dolphins solve ecological problems such as finding food, and social problems such as with whom to associate. She has been studying humpback whales in the Pacific and Atlantic since 2008.

“My on-going work is focused on understanding how humpbacks work together during feeding,” adds Pearson, “and how their feeding strategies change according to prey availability.”

Humpbacks migrate to Southeast Alaskan waters during the summer to take advantage of high abundance of fish, mostly herring, pilchard and salmon. To effectively corral these fish, humpbacks use a variety of foraging strategies such as deep feeding, lunge-feeding and bubble-net feeding.

Since 2004 Pearson has been studying another marine mammal, the dusky dolphin, in the waters off New Zealand. Her research on these social toothed dolphins is supported by the National Geographic/Waitt Grants Program with a goal of understanding the life of a dolphin from its perspective.

Fireside Lectures are free and open to the public. Doors open at 6 pm. Presentations are at 6:30 pm with a repeat at 8 pm. Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is managed by the US Forest Service. For more information call 789-0097.

More in Neighbors

A sooty grouse alertly watches some approaching humans. (Photo by Pam Bergeson)
On the Trails: From Switzer Creek to Mount Roberts

A September morning stroll with a friend on the Switzer Creek Trail… Continue reading

This resting dog’s nose is at work all the time and is more than 1,000 times more sensitive than yours. (Photo of a tired-out Cora by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: The world according to a dog’s nose

A dog can tell you a lot about the outdoors. When a… Continue reading

An Earth Day message posted on Facebook this spring by the University of Alaska Southeast refers to environmental stewardship and climate change activities, including these kayaks used for an oceanography course during the summer of 2019. (Courtesy of the University of Alaska Southeast)
Sustainable Alaska: Connecting to nature is vital to sustainable well-being and behavior

I have spent my career studying the aesthetic experience in an art-viewing… Continue reading

Laura Rorem
Living and Growing: ‘UBUNTU: I am because we are’

Ironic. As I received the 1998 Parent of the Year Award for… Continue reading

A crow is blinded in one eye with an infection of avian pox. (Photo by Kerry Howard)
On the Trails: Avian flu ailments

Among the many diseases that afflict wild birds, there is avian flu,… Continue reading

A change in season is marked by tree leaves turning color at Evergreen Cemetery in late September of 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Gimme a Smile: P.S. Autumn is here.

Ready or not, here it comes. The days are getting shorter, new… Continue reading

A double rainbow appears in Juneau last Friday. (Photo by Ally Karpel)
Living and Growing: Embracing Tohu V’vohu — Creation Amidst Chaos

Over the course of the past year, during which I have served… Continue reading

Birch and aspen glow orange in September in the Chena River State Recreation Area east of Fairbanks. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: The varying colors of fall equinox

We are at fall equinox, a day of great equality: All the… Continue reading

A male pink salmon attacks another male with a full-body bite, driving the victim to the bottom of the stream.(Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Eagle Beach strawberries and salmon

A walk at Eagle Beach Rec Area often yields something to think… Continue reading

Adam Bauer of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Bahá’ís of Juneau.
Living and Growing: Rúhíyyih Khánum, Hand of the Cause of God

Living in Juneau I would like to take a moment to acknowledge… Continue reading

A calm porcupine eating lunch and not displaying its quills. (Photo by Jos Bakker)
On the Trails: Prickly critters here and afar

Prickles, thorns, and spines of some sort are a common type of… Continue reading

The Rev. Karen Perkins.
Living and Growing: Coping with anger, shock and despair after a loss

The last several Living and Growing columns have included reflections about death,… Continue reading