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Lowell Lecture

Real Mermaids: Dugongs in Australia

Date & Time

May 26, 2016 at 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.


New England Aquarium
1 Central Wharf Boston, MA 02110
Driving Directions


Elizabeth Burgess, Postdoctoral Researcher, New England Aquarium

Presenting Organization

New England Aquarium



Christopher Columbus believed he was looking at a mermaid when he saw his first manatee. However, it is the dugong that is the more likely suspect of most mermaid stories. Closely related to portly manatees, the dugong is an unusual marine mammal. They have a vast global range that spans the Indo-Pacific region, but they rely on inshore habitats, which places them in close proximity to humans …and their associated impacts.

Elizabeth will take you on a trip to Australia during this lecture - the dugong’s last stronghold. She will focus on the need to obtain vital reproductive information on populations surviving along a heavily impacted urban coastline. Notoriously difficult to study, dugong research in the past had been obtained through carcass analysis from incidental drownings and indigenous harvests. The research that Elizabeth will present took on the challenge of using a hands-on approach to study live dugongs, which has allowed for a better understanding of pregnancy, seasonality, reproductive strategies and stress responses in a free-ranging population. Join us for a talk on this unique marine species, and novel research approaches.