Career, Marine Mammal Science

From: Orca Network (
Date: Sun May 18 2003 - 11:57:05 EDT

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    I am interested in becoming a marine mammal scientist, and my ultimate goal
    is to [study] orcas, either in the San Juan Islands or Alaska. I am
    especially interested in studying intelligence and behavior. If you could
    provide information on the types of jobs that are available to people who
    specialize in marine mammal science, what the schooling is like, colleges
    with good marine mammal programs, and any other relevant data, I would be
    very appreciative. Thank you!

    ~Britt L.

    For starters, I'll refer you to the excellent resource on marine mammal
    careers at These
    links will help you find the schools with good marine mammal programs and
    the kinds of jobs available.

    However, your interest in cetacean intelligence and behavior may not be
    well answered by these sources, partly because these topics have only
    recently been looked at scientifically, and partly because lingering
    "anthropodenial" - the refusal to consider the evidence for highly
    developed cognitive and communicative capabilities in cetaceans and other
    mammals - prevents many institutions from exploring these topics. To help
    you get around these defensive institutions, I can only recommend our own
    web section devoted to cetacean, especially orca, natural history, at There you'll find a
    variety of links, facts and sources to guide your self-education in
    cetacean capabilities. For starters, I recommend a paper called "Culture in
    Whales and Dolphins" which you'll find at, with the abstract
    and a link to the entire paper. The bibliography alone can lead you to the
    best resources. The paper is almost two years old now and more has been
    written, some of which is on the same web page.

    Just as a personal aside, in my opinion, the term "intelligence" is highly
    overrated. There really is no way to quantify intelligence or to compare
    examples. I prefer to look for indications such as self-awareness,
    communicative ability, cultural identity and other signs of cultural

    Best wishes on your pursuits.


    Howard Garrett
    Orca Network
    Greenbank WA
    (360) 678-3451

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