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Scott Baker is broadly interested in the evolutionary and ecological pattern and process in whales and dolphins, including their abundance, population structure, genetic diversity and systematic relationships. Scott is particularly interested in projects that bring together both molecular and demographic approaches to improve the conservation of these species. The advent of molecular genetics and the emerging fields of genomics and bioinformatics have provided powerful new tools to describe the hierarchical structure of biodiversity. These tools complement and extend, rather than replace, demographic methods used in animal ecology and conservation biology.
Current Research Topics include:
• Population structure and genetic diversity of whales, dolphins, sea lions and fur seals
• Demographic and genetic impacts of whaling
• Molecular taxonomy and applied bioinformatics for species identification
• Molecular monitoring of ‘whalemeat’ markets in Japan and Korea
• Social organization and kinship in whales and dolphins
• The evolution of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes in cetaceans and pinniped
One of the recent initiatives of Scott’s research group has been to establish a web-based program for identification of whales, dolphins and porpoises using applied bioinformatics and a validated database of DNA sequences. Details are available at www.dna-surveillance.auckland.ac.nz. An exciting outcome of establishing this database was the discovery of a new species of beaked whales, Mesoplodon perrini (Dalebout et al. 2002) the first mammalian species recognized primarily by genetic characters and the first new species of cetacean in 15 years.
Google DNA-surveillance or http://www.cebl.auckland.ac.nz:9000/