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GENERAL ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
This isn’t anything new for Lohmann’s
lab. Studies in 2001 and 2004 provided
the basis for his theory, based on two findings: that sea turtles and salmon both are
able to sense the Earth’s magnetic field,
and that different areas of coastline have
slightly different magnetic fields associated
Neither of these ideas is individually
new, but Lohmann says his research team
has put them together in a way that
explains some amazing feats of animal
navigation. The team includes his wife,
Catherine Lohmann, a lecturer in biology;
and Nathan Putman, a graduate student in
the department, who are co-authors of
If they could prove it — and there are
plenty of researchers out there interested in
doing just that — Lohmann said he sees a
lot of benefits associated with it. He could
direct the sea creatures into deserted waters
where they once again could flourish.
It also might be possible to exploit
magnetic navigation for conservation purposes.
“If it turns out to be true, it could be a
powerful conservation tool for establishing
[turtles] in places where they once lived
and are now extinct,” Lohmann told
And this is important because during
the 20th century, pollution, over-fishing,
dams and general marine mismanagement
led to striking declines in salmon and turtle populations.
Now, Lohmann has expanded his studies to more exotic locations and is studying sea turtles that nest along the edge of
the Great Barrier Reef.
— Beth Mechum ’09