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Welcome to Innovation in the Burg, a podcast about science and innovation in St. Petersburg. If you’re a self-described science or technology geek, or even if you aren’t, this will be a fun and informative conversation. Each week, we’ll be joined by a local science or technology expert who will talk about what they’re working on. But to make sure we keep this in perspective and we don’t become too technical, we have a community member joining us. Our hope is that you learn something new and enjoy our conversation.

06/14/2019 | Episode 007 | 28:57

Innovation in the Burg: A Whale Tale of an Episode with Laura Engleby of NOAA

A Whale Tale: Laura Engleby of NOAA Fisheries talks the Gulf Coast Bryde's whales, marine mammalogy and scientists who inspire her

On this fascinating episode of Innovation in the 'Burg, Alison is joined in the studio by Laura Engleby, Marine Mammal Branch Chief for NOAA Fisheries. Engleby shares recent discoveries about the extremely rare Gulf Coast Bryde's whale. The newly discovered subspecies made headlines this year when one washed up in Everglades National Park, becoming the first type species of its kind. Engleby shares how she and her team worked to bring the giant whale's body north and eventually to the Smithsonian. She shares the story behind landing her dream job, and talks about the female scientists who inspire her work.

Key Insights

  • Today's expert: Laura Engleby, Marine Mammal Branch Chief for the Southeast regional office of NOAA Fisheries
  • Today's guest: Lindsey Meyer, an intern for the Innovation District. Lindsay is a student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, studying environmental science and policy. She will be graduating in the fall.
  • Laura's job: To implement the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the Southeast Region. Laura works on conserving and protecting marine mammals. This is done by reducing bycatch in fisheries, training people to respond to sick, injured or stranded marine mammals along the coastline.
  • A scientist at NOAA recently discovered a new whale species in the Gulf of Mexico. The whale is a subspecies of Bryde's whales that live year round in a small area in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • This species of whale is considered one of the most endangered whale species in the world. Laura talks about the search for a type species, excavating a whale carcass from Fort Desoto from 2009 and finding the Bryde's whale stranded in the Everglades National Park in January of 2019.
  • Laura talks logistics of getting that whale from the Everglades to Fort DeSoto, and eventually to the Smithsonian.
  • Getting a name: The species will go through a number of scientific groups to decide its specific species, taxonomy group, and Latin name.
  • Getting into mammals: Laura talks the story behind her love of marine mammals, working at Six Flags, becoming an assistant dolphin trainer, moving to work with dolphins in the Florida Keys, and eventually science policy management.
  • Laura is inspired by her colleagues at NOAA. She works with some of the most noteworthy marine scientists in the world. Specifically by Sylvia Earle, Kathryn Sullivan, and Dr. Tracey Sutton.
  • Through his work following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Sutton's work is showing that the Gulf of Mexico is one of the most diverse ecosystems out there.
  • Difference between Bryde's whales found in the Gulf and the rest of the species - their genetic lineage is distinctly different, their calls are also unique.
  • To report dead, injured or entangled dolphins, whales, seals or sea turtles in the Southeast U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to: 1-877-WHALE-HELP (1-877-942-5343)
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About the host

Alison Barlow is the Executive Director of the St. Petersburg Innovation District. Her role is to harness expertise in health science, marine science, education, and art to form unique collaborations. These multi-sector, cross discipline collaborations strive to identify innovative solutions that will grow the economic and social vibrancy of St. Petersburg and address key global issues. Alison grew up in St. Petersburg, graduated from Boca Ciega High School, received a Bachelors in Hospitality Administration from Florida State University, and later a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Management of Global Information Systems from American University in Washington D.C. For 17 years, Alison worked as a business and technology consultant based in Washington DC, often for the Department of Defense. She focused on strategic planning, process improvement and technology collaboration. Following her relocation back to St. Petersburg, Alison became the manager and a lead facilitator for Collaborative Labs at St. Petersburg College. Alison joined the St. Petersburg Innovation District as its inaugural Executive Director in June of 2017. In addition to her work, Alison is involved with the Leadership St. Petersburg Alumni Association, Friends of Strays Animal Shelter Board, and the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.


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