Research scientist, Maurice-Lamontagne Institue/
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Whales under the microscope
Throughout her career in zoology, Lena Measures has studied aquatic invertebrates, fish, rabbits, woodchucks, bats, and many other animals before coming to marine mammals. In actual fact it is the smaller beasts that she is particularly passionate about. What interests her, on studying any animal, are
the parasites, viruses, and bacteria that infest them. Parasitology is a fascinating area of study. It unites many different academic fields such as animal behaviour, ecology, physiology, taxonomy, pathology, immunology, and evolution.
Originally from Montreal, Lena Measures has a sound university education (bachelors from 1976 to 1979, masters and doctorate at the University of Guelph from 1980 to 1987, and post-doctorate at the University of Alberta from 1988 to 1989). She has been working at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute since 1989 on research dealing with the marine environment, particularly seals and whales. There is still very little known about marine mammal pathogens especially concerning whales. Lena Measures is therefore one of a small group of scientists working to advance this area of research.
What kind of work does she do? Sometimes she works in the laboratory and sometimes out in the field. In the laboratory, she could be identifying parasites collected from a marine mammal, whereas in the field, she could be the person taking samples from a beached marine mammal carcass. To do this job you certainly need a strong stomach! Lena Measures assures us that you get used to it, especially considering it is such motivating and stimulating work. It can, for example, help in the identification of illnesses which threaten certain fragile marine mammal populations in the St. Lawrence, such as the beluga whale or harbour seal. However, she still finds pleasure in heading offshore from time to time to observe marine mammals from a greater distance…. the living, breathing kind!