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Investigations in Victor Harbor endeavour to uncover information about Southern Right Whales that migrate to South Coast each year.
Beginning with the 2001 Whale Watching season, researchers from Macquarie University visit us each season collecting DNA samples from Southern Right Whales as past of an ongoing genetic study that will determine the population structure of the species.
Led by whale expert Dr. Nathalie Patenaude, the research project aims to collect skin samples or' biopsies' from visiting Southern Right Whales. DNA from the samples are analysed to determine the genetic relationship between our whales and those elsewhere in Australia & New Zealand.
The aim of the study is to collect samples, which will require the research team to get as close as 10m to the whale. A biopsy is fired across the whale's back where a dart recovers a tiny section of skin and blubber about the size of a watch battery. Each whale is sampled only once.
While Western Australian Southern Right Whale populations are showing signs of recovery, the Eastern Australian whale population is less evident. Since small populations are much more vulnerable to human impacts than large ones, it is crucial to understand the nature of the stock structure of this crucially endangered species.
Genetic analysis of Southern Right Whales visiting from Eastern Australia will determine if they are the same or different genetic stock as those from Western Australia and New Zealand.