A team of scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and NOAA Fisheries are collaborating to help stem the decline of a critically endangered population of beluga whales in the Cook Inlet, Alaska. A study recently published in Animal Microbiome outlines important first steps in understanding epidermal microbial communities in beluga whales, as well as their role in beluga health. Beluga whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska are critically endangered. Despite protections that have been in place 2006, beluga whales living in the Cook Inlet region of Alaska are still declining, currently numbering approximately 300 members. Many other populations of beluga whales remain healthy, including the neighboring population in Bristol Bay, Alaska.