Research Coordinator, Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS)
With passion and curiosity
It was when he was working for a German organization whose mission was to promote conservation of the Wadden Sea – a coastal sea frequented by several species of seals and porpoises – that Christian Ramp discovered his passion for marine mammals. He then headed to New Zealand to complete a four-month internship on the Hector’s dolphin. With this experience under his belt, he decided to go back to school to study biology. He earned his master’s and Ph.D. at Germany’s University of Bremen, and completed his post-doctoral studies in 2012 at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, on blue whale distribution and habitat use in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
So how did his path cross that of MICS? It was in 1997 at a European Cetacean Society conference in Stralsund, Germany, that Christian first heard of this Quebec-based research group, founded and directed by Richard Sears. Intrigued, he sends in his internship application. He is hired a few months later and finds himself in the middle of the St. Lawrence and its whales!
Since 1997, Christian has occupied a number of roles and performed a variety of tasks within the team: supervision of field work, boat operation, photo taking, performance of biopsies, transmitter placement, blow sampling, applications for research permits, data analysis and authoring of scientific articles. He is also one of the team’s resource people: he is trained in disentanglement manoeuvres and is responsible for matching photos and registering new individuals in the St. Lawrence humpback and blue whale catalogues managed by MICS. Even today, he considers himself lucky to ply the St. Lawrence and spend hundreds of hours on the water amongst the whales. He also spent about 10 years working with cetaceans – predominantly blue whales – in Baja California and in the Azores.
The distribution, movement and migratory patterns as well as the population dynamics of St. Lawrence rorquals constitute MICS’ primary areas of research. Of all these topics, Christian is most notably interested in population models and the reproductive success of these animals. In particular, he is curious to know how these giants are adapting to growing changes to their habitat, including those triggered by human activities.