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Mail Buoy
February 27, 2006

Hi Brenna!

That is pretty neat that we have the same name! Did you know that is means “raven haired” in Gaelic? I am brown haired though... :)

I came to be on this cruise in a weird sort of way. I am living in Ontario, Canada and I study the DNA of old whale bones (60 to 10,000 years old).  I am looking at the effect whaling has had on the genetics of the whale populations today.  Specifically, I am studying the North Atlantic right whale and the bowhead whale (they were hunted extensively because they have really thick blubber, are slow moving, and float when they are killed). The North Atlantic right whale is an endangered species, with only about 350 individuals remaining.

In the early 1900s there was a Norwegian whaling station at Deception Island and they likely killed hundreds of thousands of whales (different species than the two I mentioned above), so I am going to collect whale bones from the harbor of Deception Island to see what species they are—and potentially to see what effects whaling has had on them. In the mean time, I help out on the cruise with stuff like deploying nets, data collection, and cleanup in the lab. 

What to do when I graduate? That is a good question! I really like whale research, and genetics is a great tool to use to learn about them so I will probably continue doing whale research and some teaching. What I find really exciting is coming up with a question and finding ways to answer the question through different experiments.

Brenna McLeod
graduate student
Trent University
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

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