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Rice’s Whales

Full Title: Trophic Interactions and Habitat Requirements of Gulf of Mexico Rice’s Whales

This project is developing a comprehensive ecological understanding of Gulf of Mexico Rice’s whales, including the physical, oceanographic, and biological features defining critical habitat and their ecological role in Gulf of Mexico marine food webs.

The Team: Lance P. Garrison (Lead Investigator, NOAA, Melissa Soldevilla (NOAA), Keith Mullin (NOAA), John Hildebrand (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego), Michael Heithaus (Florida International University), and Jeremy Kiszka (Florida International University)

Technical Monitor: Vicki Cornish ( and Barb Zoodsma (

Federal Program Officer/Point of Contact: Frank Parker (

This project began in June 2017 and will end in May 2021.

Award Amount: $ 2,312,275

Why it matters: The Gulf of Mexico Rice’s whale population is estimated at 33 individuals and very little is known about this species. This project will gather and share information on how this small, resident population of whales relies on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico food web and will provide critical information to managers for recovery and restoration activities. This project will also examine an open ocean food web in the Gulf of Mexico and determine how it supports a range of species including finfish and rare whales.

What the team is doing: Using visual and acoustic monitoring, environmental measurements, collection of tissues from free-swimming whales, studies of prey distribution and composition, and deployment of animal-borne telemetry tags, the investigators will develop models and conduct analyses that provide information to managers and inform restoration and population recovery activities.

Expected Outcome: The project results will contribute directly to the development of restoration plans, recovery plans, and environmental impact assessments that are key to the effective conservation of Gulf of Mexico Rice’s whales.

Figure depicting primary Bryde´s Whales study are (solid red polygon) and full study area (hatched red polygon). Study area is based on previously documented Bryde´s Whales sightings.

From the seminar “The Trophic Ecology and Habitat of the Endangered Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s Whale (Balaenoptera edeni)” 
Presenter: Dr. Lance Garrison, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Other Resources