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CORVALLIS, Ore. – The eerie siren call of the humpback whale and the low moan of the blue whale will fill the Old World Deli during the Corvallis Science Pub on Sept. 12.
David Mellinger, an associate professor at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, will describe whale species and their songs and then look at questions that have arisen from research on marine mammal sounds.
“Whales sing when they’re on the breeding grounds,” Mellinger said. “So you might think the song is for attracting mates and driving off potential competitors, as it frequently is for birds. But whales also sing in the ‘off-season,’ away from the breeding grounds. Why?
“Humans, too, enjoy song and other music all the time,” he added. “What similarities are there that might help us understand both the whales and ourselves?”
Mellinger has used acoustic technologies to record whale sounds in the North Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific, and the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. He uses the recordings to analyze whale behavior and population size.
Whale sounds can travel long distances in the sea – in some cases, hundreds of miles, Mellinger said. At Science Pub, he will show some of the ways in which scientists hear, locate and track whales and how they use this information to understand whale movements and ecology. They also use it for whale conservation by finding the areas of the sea that are critical to the whales’ survival.
The program begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 Second St., in downtown Corvallis. It is free and open to the public.