Hailing from the salt-encrusted coast of New England, Rachel grew up with a passion for the ocean and the creatures that live just beneath the water’s surface, leading her to pursue a degree in marine ecology. An avid scuba diver and sailor, she has worked in all the oceans of the world studying the impacts of human activities on critters both small and large, but particularly close to her heart are the polar marine environments and the large whales that live there. First coming to MICS as an intern in 2011, she has returned to our research station and the Gulf of St. Lawrence each summer season since. When she’s not at Mingan, Rachel works as a educator and zodiac captain on cruise ships in Alaska and Antarctica and she helps articulate whale skeletons for educational display with Whales and Nails.
Rachel graduated from College of the Atlantic where she worked with one of our collaborator labs, Allied Whale, in the Gulf of Maine, which curates the regional catalog for all North Atlantic humpback whales. Early on in her career as a scientist she came face to face with the largest modern threats to whales globally, but that are particularly obvious in the North Atlantic: entanglement in fishing gear and ship-strike. Having necropsied many dead whales that washed up on a beach or were found at sea and brought in to shore for a necropsy, Rachel has witnessed firsthand that most fatalities are from these two main threats. She also routinely encounters living whales entangled in rope, or with scars from ropes they were once entangled in, and with scars from being hit by ships. It is these firsthand encounters that fuel her drive and commitment to find effective conservation and education measures that will reduce these threats as well as to continue long-term, population-level research. This type of research that MICS has done since 1979 is the only way we can understand how well the minke, humpback, fin, right, and blue whale populations of the Gulf of St. Lawrence are doing and how known threats impact individuals and the species as a whole.