Steller sea lions
East v West: tales of an Endangered species
When a species exhibits dramatically different population trends across it's range we suspect similarly different environmental conditions, ecologies and causes of mortality. To decipher the drivers of these population differences, however, we need to understand patterns of dispersal, colonization and breeding.
This is the story of the Steller sea lion of the north Pacific Ocean, and resolving these patterns of behavior is where we come in. Working with a diverse team of scientists, we've used genetic analysis to resolve metapopulation structure and patterns of interbreeding among rookeries and colonization of new rookeries. This work is revealing much about the strategies sea lions use to maximize fitness.
To learn more, check out these papers:
Currently, our collaborators and supporters include:
Should I stay or should I go?: Most recently, this genetic profiling has helped us determine the success of these different strategies. Twinning the genetics with assessments of morphology, survival, and movements, Hastings et al., have managed to quantify the demographic consequences of staying put, dispersing, or interbreeding across metapopulation boundaries.
For a crash course on Stellar sea lions, watch this video from some of our collaborators as they conduct field work from a research criuse to the western Aleutian Islands.
This research is part of an international collaboration with Tom Gelatt and his team at NOAA, Mike Rehberg and his team at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Vladimir Burkanov and his group at North Pacific Wildlife Consulting and the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Special thanks to Tom Gelatt and the Alaska Ecosystems Program at NOAA Fisheries' Marine Mammal Lab for allowing us to post their video.
Check out their lab and current research here.