What We Do
The Marine Mammal and Turtle Division conducts research on whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, and marine turtles primarily in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and our work is guided by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act, in addition to a variety of other domestic and international agreements and conventions. Because marine mammals and turtles are transboundary, our research is necessarily international in scope. Our scientists:
- Investigate population structure
- Estimate population size and trends in abundance
- Identify and design measures to mitigate human-made threats
- Designate critical habitat
Our major field research is conducted through research vessel, land-based, and aerial surveys. We also carry out shore-based surveys and research from small boats. Our laboratory-based research focuses on molecular genetics, photogrammetry, stable isotopes, hormone assays, and passive acoustic signal processing.
California Current Marine Mammal Assessment
The California Current Marine Mammal Assessment Program is responsible for publishing the annual marine mammal U.S. West Coast Stock Assessment Reports. We conduct research to provide estimates for many key elements of the Stock Assessment Reports (such as estimates of population size and trends, human-caused mortality and serious injury). We develop field and analytical methods for improving how stock assessments are conducted.
Cetacean Health and Life History
The Cetacean Health and Life History Program uses a variety of research methods and approaches to study the status, condition and health of whales and dolphins. We study them at the individual, physiological, and population levels.
Marine Mammal Genetics
The Marine Mammal Genetics Program integrates strong expertise in conservation biology, systematics and population genetics. We provide the best information possible to identify population structure of cetaceans and pinnipeds.
Marine Turtle Ecology & Assessment
The Marine Turtle Ecology & Assessment Program conducts research on marine turtles globally to further our understanding of their ecology, demography, human threats, and conservation status. We provide scientific advice and practical support to those who study, manage, and conserve marine turtles.
Marine Turtle Genetics
The Marine Turtle Genetics Program serves as NOAA Fisheries' National Sea Turtle Molecular Genetics Center. We use genetics to conduct population assessments and stock identity of fisheries bycatch. We also use it to study the life history, migration, and habitat use of marine turtles.
Science Implementation, Planning & Policy
The Science Implementation, Planning, & Policy Program maintains expertise in research, related mandates, and agency processes. We enable mandated monitoring and innovative research in anticipation of emerging issues and management needs.
Dave Weller, Ph.D.
David Weller is the Acting Director of the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division. Dave has studied the biology and ecology of whales and dolphins for 35 years. His specialization is in the areas of behavioral ecology, population assessment and evaluation of disturbance impacts from human activities. He received his Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University in 1998. Prior to that, he completed his B.A. and M.A. degrees at the University of Hawaii and San Diego State University, respectively.
Robin LeRoux is the Deputy Director of the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division. Robin has studied marine turtles for over 20 years, focusing on genetic population structure, strandings and monitoring of foraging green turtles in Southern California. She leads the Science Implementation, Planning & Policy Program, which conducts operations, management, and strategic planning for the Division’s five scientific research programs. Robin received her B.S. in Biology from UC San Diego and her M.B.A. from the University of Redlands.