The 1970s saw a generation of new environmental legislation and the beginnings of what would become a world-class center for studying whales and other marine mammals. In creating the OSU Marine Mammal Institute, marine biologist Bruce Mate brought together top researchers from around the globe to study the giants of the ocean and how they interact with their environment and the human activities affecting them.
Over decades, their work has discovered the importance of biological “hotspots” to the survival of most of these sea creatures. Researchers used satellite-monitored radio tags to determine the distribution and critical habitats of endangered whales, and they explored the genome of whales and dolphins to understand the past and conserve the future.
Building on this world-class research base, Scott Baker, associate director of the institute, is now investigating the illegal sale of meat from protected whales in Asian shops and restaurants. He uses DNA profiling to identify whale meat down to the species, subpopulation, and even the individual whale, producing convincing evidence that some whale meat in the marketplace originated from illegal or unregulated sources.