Got Baleen?

22nd Oct 2009 I have just started a PhD project on the feeding ecology and migration of baleen whales in Irish waters at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, under the supervision of David McGrath, Ian O'Connor and Simon Berrow. I will be carrying out fieldwork and attending strandings to obtain samples on an ongoing basis.

Baleen tends to be collected by naturalists, as it is perhaps the only part of a whale that can be brought home without exuding an almighty smell! Do you have baleen lying around somewhere? If so, I am very interested in either visiting you or sending you a sampling pack (stamped address envelope, guidelines and sample bags) to obtain a small sliver of baleen. I only require a thin strand, but need it to be as long as possible.


Particularly useful would be information on when and where the animal stranded, from which the baleen was taken. If the stranding was not reported to the IWDG, the species, approximate length of the whale and its gender would be very helpful.

I will use the baleen to reconstruct the individual's diet using chemical signatures (stable isotope analysis). Baleen is particularly suited to this analysis as it contains a continuous record of the animal's diet over several years. In stable isotope analysis, the rule is “you are what you eat”!

Any samples will be gratefully received and due credit will of course be given to the provider, wherever the data is used. Please don't hesitate to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you: sightings@iwdg.ie or 085 7253807.

Conor Ryan

IWDG / GMIT