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Moira Brown, an Advocate for Right Whales, to Deliver ODU Natural History Lecture

Moira Brown, a scientist who has devoted the past quarter century to the study of whales - and especially to efforts to protect North Atlantic right whales -- will deliver Old Dominion University's annual Lytton J. Musselman Natural History Lecture Thursday, April 15.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Auditorium. Free parking will be available in Parking Garage E off 49th Street.

The lecture's title is "Minimizing Vessel Strikes to Endangered Right Whales: A Crash Course in Conservation Science and Policy." The speaker's research has focused on the distribution, population biology and genetics of a North Atlantic right whale population that numbers only about 400.

Brown, a Canadian by birth, is senior scientist at the New England Aquarium's Edgerton Research Laboratory in Boston. She was a leader of the initiative in recent years to get the government of Canada, the shipping industry and scientists to address ship strikes and other threats to right whales in the Bay of Fundy.

Her efforts led in 2003 to the first-ever action by the International Maritime Organization to amend shipping lanes to avoid ship strikes of an endangered marine species. The decision moved shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy between Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia about four nautical miles east. This is believed to have reduced the risk of accidental collisions between right whales and ships by as much as 90 percent.

For her achievements, Brown has been awarded the Gulf of Maine Visionary Award, Canadian Environment Award and International Fund for Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award.

Brown is co-chair of the North Atlantic Right Whale Recovery-Implementation Team, and, in addition to her position at the New England Aquarium, is senior scientist for the Canadian Whale Institute.

This is the seventh annual lecture in the Musselman Natural History series, which is supported by an endowment. Musselman is the Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany at ODU.

The effort to launch the lecture series was led by Michael Pitchford, an ODU alumnus and former biology student of Musselman who is now president and chief executive officer of Community Preservation and Development Corp. in Washington, D.C. He and his wife, Sue, also an ODU graduate, provided a substantial gift to the lecture series endowment.

"The right whale population migrates annually from Canada to Florida and passes within miles of Old Dominion University twice a year," Pitchford said in explaining his interest in having Brown deliver this year's lecture. "Mo Brown's lifetime of work on the right whale, especially her work on ship-whale collision avoidance, some of which has impacted our maritime and naval operations in Hampton Roads, provides a good opportunity to challenge and educate."

Pitchford noted that Musselman Natural History Lecture subjects have included rattlesnakes, wild orchids, warblers, the long leaf pine and the Chesapeake Bay, but that this is the first to "connect with the natural history of our vast oceans."

A field trip associated with the lecture will be 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday, April 16, to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach. ODU biology alumni and other interested persons are invited to sign up by April 9 for the trip, which will include roundtrip transportation leaving from the university. The cost is $15 per person.

To RSVP for the field trip or to find out more about the lecture, contact Bryan O'loughlin, student coordinator of the Natural History Lecture, at BiolRSVP@odu.edu. More information can also be obtained by sending an e-mail to Musselman at lmusselm@odu.edu.

This article was posted on: April 7, 2010

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