From skinny sea lions on beaches in California, to hundreds of enormous dead whales in the fjords of Chile, scientists have been recently puzzled by a spate of dead and dying marine mammals. These events are so complicated- influenced by disease, biotoxins, ecosystem changes, and human interaction-that their cause can appear impossible to untangle. Yet a growing body of evidence strongly suggests that climate change has a hand in them all. This thesis examines marine mammal stranding events of the past and present to show how climate change will, and already has, impacted marine mammals, and how these events could serve as proxies for broader ecosystem changes in the years to come. By paying attention to whales and dolphins, seals and sea otters, we may be able to learn something about our planet, and how its changes will impact its most abundant mammal: us.
Claudia grew up on Long Island, New York, where she spent her formative years wading into tide pools and staring off at the horizon in search of whales. She spent her undergraduate years at Northeastern University pursuing degrees in Journalism and Environmental Science, while using any free space in her schedule to indulge her interest in marine science– from helping with the necropsy of a 9-foot seal at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, to hauling lines on a 134-foot tall sailing ship off of New Zealand with Sea Education Association. After her classwork at MIT, she completed an internship with Nautilus Magazine in New York. Claudia is currently based on Cape Cod and working as a freelance writer, editor, and film researcher. In 2020, she was Mongabay's inaugural Sue Palminteri Wildtech Reporting Fellow, where she covered the intersection of conservation and technology. She is also a fact-checker for the Gimlet podcast How to Save A Planet. You can find her work at claudiageib.com.
Thesis: Swimming Sentinels: Climate Clues from Stranded Marine Mammals