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Courses that Change Your Life: Marine Mammals (BIOL 359)

Posted by Dieter Bouma | Oct 07, 2015

Few species arouse as much human interest, curiosity, and empathy as large mammals and few large mammals have proved so enduringly fascinating to peoples as those in marine environments; cetaceans (whales and dolphins), pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) and sirenians (manatees and dugongs). Such creatures are not only the object of scientific study but the actors and principals in human legend, literature, economics, politics, and folklore. What better array of mammals to feature in its own course? 

At Au Sable, we bring the study of these fascinating creatures together in Marine Mammals, taught at our Pacific Rim Campus on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. Here students can see (from land and on the water) many of species of cetaceans and pinnipeds that display a fascinating combination of physiology, social behavior and resource use which combines to form their life in the marine environment. Some of these elements, like the amazing adaptations associated with diving physiology and underwater communication, are now the subjects of intense and ongoing scientific investigation, while others, like population dynamics and management, are matters of growing concern for those who care for God’s earth.

Although some other Au Sable courses offer more specific technical skills, the opportunity to learn to appreciate, with both scientific knowledge and informed Christian faith, the life and beauty of marine mammals can be even more important. The most important value to be gained from Au Sable’s course in Marine Mammals is “that our Creator God is interested in the giants in the sea and the giants we confront in our daily lives,” says Dr. Rafe Payne, former professor of Marine Mammals.

The appreciation of other life, like yet unlike our own, is a key to understanding ourselves, the work of God in nature, and our responsibility for its care. These elements, presented with skill by an outstanding educator, make Marine Mammals a course that can change your life.