We use photographs and genetic analysis to determine the individual and family relationships between North Atlantic right whales. Right whale researchers use this information to better understand the dynamics between individuals that may affect their reproduction and survival success.
We conduct surveys to collect photo-identification, behavioral, health and genetic data on this species throughout their range. These efforts have included a combination of shipboard and aerial surveys off Florida and Georgia, east of Cape Cod in Great South Channel and in Roseway Basin south of Nova Scotia. Annual right whale surveys in the Bay of Fundy, based out of Lubec, Maine, have been ongoing since 1980.
Get to know a few of our favorite right whales by exploring their family trees and individual life histories.
Right whales can be identified by black and white markings on their heads (called callosities), scars, birthmarks and other features. We organize every right whale photograph into our North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog, and use this resource to track and study individual whales throughout their lives and monitor right whale population trends over time.
Genetic analysis reveals the relationship between individual right whales. We use this information to create right whale family trees, assess current and historic population size, and determine the population’s resistance to disease.
With more than 200,000 photographs dating back to 1935, the North Atlantic Right Whale Photo-Identification Catalog is the most complete right whale identification resource available to researchers today.