MMI Mission Statement

The Marine Mammal Institute integrates research, scientific and academic studies within Oregon State University.  Our critical mission is to advance conservation and the understanding of marine mammal ecology, which incorporates habitat, food web, health and environmental issues. The Institute works with industries (fisheries, shipping, oil and others) that have potential for endangering target species to help them save marine mammals while accomplishing their work. Our research, information, and studies are targeted for use by public policy makers, scientists, media, educators, and the general public.

MMI History

our roots: Marine Mammal Program

Oregon State University's Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station (COMES) was established in 1988 as a counterpart to the inland Agricultural Experiment Station, and was based at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in 1989. One of seven research programs within COMES, the Marine Mammal Program was formed to conduct original research to better understand marine mammal management issues such as population numbers, critical habitats, migrations, behavior, and interactions with human activities (e.g. fishing, oil and gas development, and shipping).

our foundation: Whale telemetry group

From 1983 to 2020, Dr. Bruce Mate led the Marine Mammal Program's foundational research laboratory, the Whale Telemetry Group (WTG). The WTG pioneered the development of satellite-monitored radio tags to study the movements, critical habitats, and dive characteristics of free-ranging whales and dolphins around the world. This work led to the discovery of previously unknown migration routes and seasonal distribution (wintering and summering areas), as well as descriptions of diving behavior. Decision makers have used this valuable information to manage human activities that may jeopardize the recovery of endangered whale populations.

our present & future: marine mammal Institute

In late 2006, Oregon State University granted full Institute status to the Marine Mammal Program, announcing plans to expand its faculty and broaden the scope of its research. OSU's research in the study of threatened and endangered whale species has been internationally recognized over the past three decades, primarily through the pioneering studies of Bruce Mate, who directed the Institute until his retirement in 2019. The Marine Mammal Institute is now led by Dr. Lisa T. Ballance.