Marine Mammal Biology

Course Dates

June 3, 2024 to June 17, 2024


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

Harbor seals at neighboring Duck Island.

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.

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)



Course Numbers

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

Sample Syllabus

Tuition & Fees

Financial Support



Dr. Nadine Lysiak

photo of Nadine Lysiak standing on Appledore Island

Nadine is a Research Scientist at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium and a member of the Faculty at the Shoals Marine Lab where she teach courses on ecology, evolution, and marine mammal science. Nadine conducts research on large whale foraging ecology, stress and reproductive physiology, and migration behavior. Her research focuses on retrospective chemical analysis of baleen.





In 2013, BioSM 1650 participated in the salvage of a minke whale carcass.
Stories and photos the 2013 BioSM 1650 minke whale adventure: