Marine Mammal Biology (online)

Course Dates

June 7, 2021 to July 2, 2021


One semester of college-level biology or equivalent; background in vertebrate biology is recommended, but not required.

Equivalent Note

Cornell students: This course fulfills a CALS graduation requirement.

Course Description

Shoals students enjoying an amazing whale watch (photo by Jan Factor).
Harbor seals at neighboring Duck Island.

Introduction to the biology and conservation of the whales and seals, with a particular focus on species of the Gulf of Maine. Lectures examine topics including taxonomy and species diversity, adaptations for life in the sea, foraging ecology and behavior, reproductive cycles, bioacoustics, and management of threatened species. Land and open-water observations of whale and seal behavior are an integral part of this course. Instructors are permitted to conduct dissections of marine mammals when carcasses are available for autopsy.

Some of the learning outcomes for this course include:

  • Identify and explain the morphological, physiological adaptations specific to the evolution of marine mammals;
  • Understand the seasonal patterns of foraging and reproductive cycles of local marine mammals and their relation to resource availability in the Gulf of Maine;
  • Recognize the anthropogenic threats faced by marine mammals and the challenges to their long-term conservation and management.

What to expect from an online course at Shoals Marine Laboratory:

  • Interactive, course-specific digital content
  • Combination of synchronous and asynchronous virtual classrooms
  • Access to long-term data sets from SML
  • Concentrate on one course at a time

Internship opportunity: This course is recommended experience for SML's Marine Mammal Internship.

"...after attending the Shoals course for Marine Mammals...I was able to learn about something that really interested me, and I am one step closer to my dream of working with and helping marine mammals." - Lindsay Spotts (SML '15, UNH '18)


Dr. Nadine Lysiak:

Lecturer, UMass Boston; Faculty, Marine Studies Consortium

In 2013, BioSM 1650 participated in the salvage of a minke whale carcass:

  • Watch a video made by Chad Crowley (SML '13, Cornell '16) for the student's perspective...

Stories and photos the 2013 BioSM 1650 minke whale adventure:

Course Video

Course whale watch from August 2009, just off the Isles of Shoals!



Course Numbers

Cornell: BIOSM 3450 (3 Credits)
UNH: MEFB 535 (4 Credits)