Charlene Pérez Santos

NOAA-EPP LMRCSC Masters Graduate
M.S., Wildlife Science
Oregon State University

Charlene Pérez Santos is a master’s student at the Marine Mammal Institute under the mentorship of Dr. Josh Stewart. Originally from Puerto Rico, Charlene earned her bachelor’s degree in marine biology with a second concentration in wildlife management at the University of Puerto Rico. During her undergraduate studies, she developed a passion for marine mammals. Despite limited research resources in Puerto Rico for this field, she actively sought out volunteer and research opportunities in marine sciences. She volunteered at the Conservation Center of Manatees, worked as a field assistant in Coral Monitoring and Light Pollution Lagoon Projects, and served as a research assistant in aquaculture and aquaponic investigations.

Seeking to broaden her opportunities in the marine mammal field, she applied to the NOAA IN-FISH internship and was accepted, working on a survey for direct seafood marketing related to lobster fishing and North Atlantic right whales. Through that experience, Charlene connected with NOAA scientists who helped guide her path and secure fellowships like CIMERS and the NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center, which funds her master’s studies.

Charlene’s thesis work aims to use movement data from humpback whales in the Mexico and Central America Distinct Population Segments, collected via satellite tags, to investigate the overlap between whale distribution and vessel traffic in Pacific Mexico, assess the risk of ship strikes in U.S. versus Mexican waters, and determine if vessel traffic near human population centers poses a risk to these populations. This  dissertation contributes significantly to Stock Assessment Support and Information (SASI) by providing crucial data on humpback whale population dynamics and Habitat and Biological Systems (HaBS) goals by exploring the impacts of human activities on marine habitats.

Charlene will complete her NERTO in June 2024 at Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California under the supervision of Dr. Dave Weller, NOAA Director of Marine Mammal and Turtle Division. The topic of their research is Evaluating Ship-Strike Risk to Mexico and Central America Humpback Whale DPSs Using Satellite Tag Data. 

Post-graduation, Charlene plans to work with NOAA in the marine mammal field and later, possibility, enter academia back on her island, Puerto Rico.

Research theme: Assessment

NOAA LMRCSC Fellows attain the NOAA Core Competencies detailed in this rubric.

NERTO Project Title:  “Evaluating Ship-Strike Risk to Mexico and Central America Humpback Whale DPSs Using Satellite Tag Data”

NOAA Mentor: Dr. Dave Weller

Academic Advisors: Dr. Josh Stewart

NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center
University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Lead Institution)
(410) 651-7870
Award numbers: FY 2021 Award #NA21SEC4810005
Funding Agency: NOAA Educational Partnership Program with Minority-Serving Institutions (EPP/MSI)

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