Lecture Series – Big Data for big Mammals

Please join us on Zoom for a new lecture on:

Big Data for big Mammals: How Genomics can be used to study the Ecology and Evolution of Whales

January 28th, 5:30pm ET

Register here on Eventbrite

Many people have become aware of the terms “PCR” and “genome sequencing” since the onset of COVID-19. These same techniques that are used in the medical field have lent themselves toward scientific advancement in many disciplines and marine biology. Whales can be difficult to study because they live offshore and spend the majority of their time underwater, out of sight and invisible to the human eye. While directly observing a whale can provide snapshots of information, an individual’s genome is a living ledger, containing details about that specific individual, but also about all of its ancestors before it. Researchers can use this DNA to tackle questions about population size, connectivity and even to suggest new species. I hope to share with you the latest advances of genomics in marine biology and to demonstrate how useful DNA is in understanding the elusive study of organisms.

Morgan is a PhD fellow from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie TALENT Doctoral Program at the University of Copenhagen. He is in the Marine Mammal Group, housed within the Section for Evolutionary Genomics at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. He has an overarching passion for how DNA can facilitate ecological and evolutionary understanding of marine mammals and how it can eventually be used to inform conservation strategies. Originally, from Cohasset, MA, Morgan completed a Bachelor of Arts in Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University and a joint Erasmus Mundus Master of Science in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems at the University of Brussels, the University of Florence, and the University of Queensland. For his master’s thesis, Morgan investigated a suggested dugong population collapse in Southeast Queensland, Australia, using dugong DNA extracted from museum collection bones. After graduating from his masters, Morgan interned at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center, in the Marine Mammal Genetics Program in San Diego, California. There, he worked on assembling whole genomes of beaked whales, an understudied and lesser-known family of whales with the intent to more accurately describe the beaked whale family tree. As part of his internship and to kick-off his graduate work, Morgan took part in a research campaign in Guadalupe, Mexico, to collect samples that will be used to better understand island population dynamics in beaked whales. Presently, Morgan resides in Copenhagen, Denmark and has continued to work on aspects of beaked whale ecology and evolution and also studies an extinct population of gray whales in the Atlantic Ocean using ancient DNA and collaborated on a study using just water samples to extract DNA from Bowhead whales in Greenland.

Our lectures are free presentation seminars and discussion events hosted by the Center for Student Coastal Research (CSCR), a nonprofit organization located in Cohasset on Boston’s South Shore. CSCR educates students in environmental sciences, encourages environmental awareness, and promotes activism.

General attendance and participation is comlimentary, tax deductible donations are welcome.

If you are interested in actively participating in the lecture series program, please contact the organizer Dr. Carsten Haber, CSCR board member.