Academic Teaching

BIOL 3320   The Biology of Marine Mammals

This course covers the evolutionary biology, ecology, behaviour, and conservation of marine mammals: whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans), seals and walruses (pinnipeds), manatees and dugongs (sirenians) and sea otters. Students learn the ecology of mammalian life in the aquatic environment, their role in the marine ecosystem, their behavioural complexity and socio-ecology, and the current threats to these animals in the human-dominated world.

The course is given in a series of 2-hour lectures and interactive classroom sessions, as follows: 

Class
Topics
1
  • Brief history of marine mammal research 

  • How to study free-ranging marine mammals? - Field research techniques 

2
  • Taxonomy and diversity 

Field trip: Research survey in Hong Kong waters

3
  • Challenges of aquatic life: Marine mammal eco-physiology 

4
  • Life history strategies: Part 1 

5
  • Life history strategies: Part 2

6
7
  • Marine mammal evolution

  • Sensory systems

8
  • Acoustic environment: Vocalisation and echolocation

9
  • Ecology of group living 

    • Part 1: Basic concepts

    • Part 2: Dolphin societies and social strategies

10
  • Foraging strategies and feeding behaviour

  • Behavioural complexity and culture  ​

11
  • Classroom Debate: various topics

  • Mating systems

  • Evolutionary traits: Social structure - life history parameters - socio-ecology

12
13
  • Marine mammals vs. other mammalian systems: Comparative behavioural ecology

15
  • Marine mammal conservation: Global issues

16
  • Marine mammal conservation: Hong Kong and Pearl River Estuary

14
  • Classroom Debate: various topics

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CETACEAN ECOLOGY LAB

The Swire Institute of Marine Science, The University of Hong Kong

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