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Trent Scientists Heading to Taiwan To Save Rare Dolphins
August 8, 2007

Professor Brad White and Trent Students to Present Key DNA Evidence at International Dolphin Symposium Sept. 3-7, 2007

Humpback DolphinA team of Trent University scientists will soon be heading off to the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in southern Taiwan to present critical DNA research as part of an international effort to save the few remaining Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins found along coastal waters there.

Renowned for their illuminating work with the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale, biology professor and Canada Research Chair in Conservation Genetics and Biodiversity Dr. Bradley White, along with Ph.D student Brenna McLeod and post-doctoral fellow Dr. Tim Frasier have spent the last six months studying the genetics of the dolphins in Trent’s DNA labs. Their research is essential in determining if the few animals found on the west coast of Taiwan are distinct from those found off the coast of Hong Kong and in other Chinese waters.

Only 100 Dolphins Remaining

"If the genetic data show that these dolphins are a distinct population, the issue then becomes how many there are," explained Dr. White. "Present estimates indicate there are only around 100 left. This small number of a distinct and isolated population would allow designation as a highly endangered population."

Unique for their pink skin colouring, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins were discovered in 2002 living in the Taiwan Strait by Dr. John Wang, a biologist with the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium. Dr. Wang has been examining their skin pigmentation to determine if the dolphins are an isolated group and will also be presenting his research at next month’ s symposium.

Trent’s team will be joining other dolphin experts from around the world to evaluate the results of recent research projects in the second International Symposium and Workshop on the Conservation and Research Needs of the Indo-Pacific Dolphins, taking place in Taiwan from September 3-7, 2007. The goal of this workshop is to scientifically evaluate the dolphins’ status as a distinct population so it can be added to the endangered list managed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

For more information about Dr. Brad White and his conservation work, visit his website.