Belfast Library presents “The science of Antarctic whales: how do humpback whales find their food?”


Tasmanian geophysicist and summer resident of Surry, Dr. Millard F. (Mike) Coffin, PhD, will give a talk entitled “Antarctic Whale Science: How Do Humpbacks Find Their Food?” Tuesday, July 19, 6.30 p.m., Abbott Room, Belfast Free Library.

Humpback whales feed primarily on krill and small fish, but how these 25,000 to 30,000 kg baleen whales find enough food to feed without echolocation remains a mystery, the library said in a press release. A multi-year, ongoing science and industry collaboration is trying to solve this puzzle by testing the hypothesis that an enigmatic organ under the lower jaw of humpback whales detects chemicals associated with krill eating plankton.

This presentation focuses on the inaugural collaborative expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula in March 2019, including a 30-minute film encompassing both science and tourism activities.

Although this research project does not specifically address the effects of climate change on humpback whale migrations or food resources, studies of Antarctic krill by Professor Coffin’s colleagues suggest that their habitats will be pushed south by climate change, which could affect the timing, concentrations, geographies and migrations of humpback whales in the future.

Marine geophysicist Mike Coffin studies the interactions between the ocean environment and the solid Earth. Raised in Bangor, he was educated at Dartmouth College (AB) and Columbia University (MA, MPhil, PhD). Since then, he has pursued an international career that reflects the boundless nature of the global ocean. He has worked in Australia (1985-1989; 2011-present), the United States (1990-2001), Japan (2001-2007) and the United Kingdom (2008-2010). Coffin has led or participated in 37 blue water research expeditions, primarily focused on the Southern, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The presentation is free and open to all ages. For more information, please call the library at 207-338-3884 ext. ten.


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