Megan Stolen, M.Sc.

Director of Melbourne Beach Laboratory

Research Scientist II


Major Research Areas

  • Marine Mammal Life History and Conservation
  • Wildlife Forensic Science and Human-Wildlife Conflict
  • River Otter Biology and Health


  • M.S., Biology, University of Central Florida
  • B.S., Biology, University of Central Florida

Current Research

  • Marine mammal stranding investigations and mortality trends
  • Health and distribution of river otters in the Indian River Lagoon and nearby watershed
  • Age estimation of small cetaceans in the Southeastern United States
  • Application of forensic science in marine mammal cases

University Affiliations

Lecturer, University of Florida, Aquatic Animal Health and Wildlife Forensic Science

Megan Stolen is the Director of the HSWRI Melbourne Beach Laboratory and Research Scientist II. She holds BSc. and MSc. degrees in Biology from the University of Central Florida and a Professional Certificate in Wildlife Forensic Sciences and Conservation from the University of Florida. Megan is an expert in investigations of marine mammal strandings and co-manages the busiest stranding program in Florida. She has been involved with stranding research for 30 years and has lectured at various conferences, government training workshops and university courses. In addition, she is an expert on age estimation in odontocetes and is often contracted for large multi-year studies of demography and life history. Megan is a trained forensic scientist and focuses on human-animal conflicts including fishery interactions and vehicle strikes. She is principal investigator of the North American River Otter Ecology and Health program which includes a large citizen science volunteer component, Otter Spotter. She is a member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, the Wildlife Disease Association, the International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association and the Society for Wildlife Forensics. She was also appointed to the IUCN’s Otter Specialist Group.

Research overview

Megan is involved in every aspect of the marine mammal stranding program along the east coast of Florida. Her research involves rescue and triage of live-stranded animals as well as the necropsy of whales and dolphins including large baleen whales. Megan is an expert on the use of tooth preparation to determine ages of odontocetes, a laborious and highly specialized field of study. Her interest in the health and anthropogenic threats to cetaceans led her to further her education to include forensic science and now applies traditional and new forensic techniques to stranding work. Recently, she has expanded her interest in aquatic sentinel species to develop the only ecology and health program in Florida dedicated to the study of North American River Otters. This research includes the examination of dead animals as well as the use of camera traps and citizen science reports for a large and comprehensive understanding of otter habitat use, behavior, demography and health.

Recent Publications

In press Stolen, M.K. Forensic Science in Marine Mammalogy in Wildlife Forensic Sciences and Conservation Medicine, S. Underkoffler and H. Adams, eds. Springer Press.

2020 Fire, S.E., J.A. Browning, W.N Durden and M.K. Stolen. Comparison of during bloom and inter-bloom brevetoxin and saxitoxin concentrations in Indian River Lagoon bottlenose dolphins, 2002-2011. Aquatic Toxicology 218 (2020) 105371.

2018 Rousselet, E. , M. Stolen, W.N. Durden, T. Mazza, N. Stacy, and D. Rotstein. Bilateral polycystic kidneys and focal renal cystadenoma in a pygmy sperm whale, Kogia breviceps. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. Doi: 10.7589/2018-01-019

2017 Durden, W.N., E. D. Stolen, T. A. Jablonski, S. A. Puckett, and M. K. Stolen. Monitoring seasonal abundance of Indian River Lagoon bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) using aerial surveys. Aquatic Mammals.

2016 Wu, Q., J. Conway, K. M. Phillips, M. Stolen, W. N. Durden, D. Fauquier, W. E. McFee, and L. Schwacke. Detection of Brucella spp. in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) by a Real-Time PCR Using Blowhole Swabs. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 120: 241– 244, doi: 10.3354/dao03034

2015 Rossman,S., P.H. Ostrom, M. Stolen, N.B. Barros, H. Gahdhi,, C. A. Stricker, and R.S. Wells. Individual specialization in the foraging habits of female bottlenose dolphins living in a trophically diverse and habitat rich estuary. Oecologia 178 (2):415-425.

2015 Fire S.E, L. Flewelling, M. Stolen, W. Noke Durden, M. de Wit, A. Spellman, Z. Wang. A brevetoxin-associated mass mortality event of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) along the east coast of Florida. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 526:241-251.

2013 Stolen M., J. St. Leger, W.N. Durden., T. Mazza, E. Nilson (2013) Fatal Asphyxiation in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the Indian River Lagoon. PLoS ONE 8(6): e66828. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066828

2013 Stolen, M.K., W.N. Durden, T. Mazza, N. Barros, J. St. Leger. Effects of recreational fishing gear on bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Indian River Lagoon system, Florida. Marine Mammal Science 29: 356-364

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