Sunday, November 14, 2010

November 11, 2010 - Striped Dolphin Necropsy at WHOI

Striped Dolphin Necropsy at the Marine Mammal Research Facility

This morning, NECWA staff members Krill Carson and Dominica Webster as well as NECWA intern Tammy Silva headed down to the Marine Mammal Research Facility in Woods Hole to help with the necropsy of a striped dolphin. This state-of-the-art facility is part of the Marine Mammal Center at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Misty Niemeyer, staff member of IFAW's Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Program (IFAW MMRR). would be leading the necropsy and overseeing the collection of all data and tissue samples.

Strict protocols must be followed to ensure the safety of all personnel involved with any marine mammal examination and necropsy. Misty went over all the necessary procedures and explained the reason for each protocol or activity. One protocol requires that all participants wear safety googles and a face mask. This is to protect all personnel from the accidental spraying of marine mammal blood fluids as the carcass is dissected.

Before the striped dolphin could be examined, Scott conducted a CT scan on the entire body of the animal. Then Scott brought the dolphin back to the lab and weighed the animal with Misty's help. The next step was to photo-document markings or unusual features on the animal's body and this involved the collection of a series of photographs from snout to fluke. Linda, an IFAW volunteer who was also assisting with the necropsy, collected photographs over the course of the procedure. Kate, another IFAW volunteer, was in charge of archiving tissue and organ samples.

(markings on the skin of the striped dolphin)

Because of her experience with computers and databases, Dominica was asked to once again assume the role of IT personnel. As tissues and organs were examined, measured and collected, Dominica recorded relevant information in the computer's database.

Krill helped with the necropsy itself by dissecting the dolphin when needed. She also took photographs to document aspects of the necrospy and the animal itself. This was Tammy's first necrospy at WHOI and she was asked to help with the collection and labeling of tissue and organ samples. Tammy did a great job, but the next time she participates in a necropsy, she has decided not to wear white!

After all the work was completed, the team worked together to clean all the dissection tools and knives as well as all the larger equipment that was used during the procedure. And every piece of equipment must be disinfected to ensure that everything is super clean and pathogen free.

Everyone was thoroughly tired by the end of the necropsy which lasted into the early afternoon. It is true that necropsies are difficult to deal with since they involve the death of a beautiful marine mammal. But these feelings are offset by the fact that the information gathered from these types of activities will help biologists determine many important questions about the biology and ecology of this species. And for this individual, Misty and the other researchers involved may be able to determine the cause of death for this striped dolphin.