July 10, 2004
Today was my first day on "small boat ops," and upon our first sighting, I eagerly donned my hard-hat and mustang suit, ready for some photo ID work. The sightings were of a tall, columnar blow, revealing a pod of the rorqual fin whales, Balaenoptera physalus. From the small boat, we successfully biopsied and photo ID'd several individuals of the fin whale pod, though their rapid movement made the work challenging. Our second deployment was for a humpback pod; again successfully biopsied and photographed.
After our day of small boat operations, I spent some time with Juan Carlos Salinas, the biopsy expert, learning to process and store the samples. The best samples have both skin and blubber, as the dead skin of the epidermis is not ideal for nuclear DNA analysis, though appropriate for mtDNA analysis. The samples, once catalogued, are frozen, and will be analyzed at the end of the cruise to help complete the picture of the status of the humpback populations.
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