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!
For starters, I'll refer you to the excellent resource on marine mammal
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
http://www.orcanetwork.org/nathist/nathist.html. 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
http://www.orcanetwork.org/nathist/scifield.html#rendell, 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.
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