Posts Tagged ‘marine mammals’

Sea otters participate in coastal restoration

September 16, 2013

by Jackie Lindsey, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

There’s a new reason to love the world’s smallest marine mammal species – so let’s talk sea otters!

These voracious predators are again making headlines in the science world as a new paper comes hot off the (virtual) presses.  Hughes et al. (2013) published an article in PNAS entitled “Recovery of a top predator mediates negative eutrophic effects on seagrass”.  This paper is truly a local collaboration, with scientists from UCSC’s Long Marine Lab, the Elkhorn Slough reserve, USGS, CSU Monterey Bay, and MBARI.

The headline? Sea otters may have saved the Elkhorn Slough seagrass habitat by doing what they do so well: eating crabs.

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“Tails” from The Field

August 7, 2013

Angieby Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Since May, the mammal lab has been as quiet as a post-apocalyptic library (yep, that quiet).

For the marine mammologist (and birder), summer time is all about fieldwork — followed by lots and lots of data crunching and thesis writing. So with fall drawing ever closer (noooooo!), I wanted to check in with my labmates to see what they have been up to.

Below is a quick summary from each of us. We’ll see you soon!

Ryan Carle: Ryan continued working on Año Nuevo Island, finishing data collection for his thesis on Rhinoceros Auklet diet and reproduction. He spends most of his waking hours on the Island identifying prey, restoring habitat, counting burrows, collecting boluses — you name it. When he’s not on Año, he’s trekking about California and making apple cider!

Casey Clark: Casey has been fervently writing up his thesis as he prepares to defend in the fall. Draft one? Check! Falling asleep on your keyboard? Check! He has also been helping out with seabird research in Astoria, Oregon. He did save time for fun too — camping, hiking, and kayaking. Jealous!

Marilyn Cruickshank: Marilyn spent the summer analyzing BeachCOMBERS data. She’s looking to see if the residence times of stranded birds on Monterey beaches can help with damage assessments and as a predictor of where most birds will wash ashore in future oil spills. Marilyn continued working for the stranding network and learned how to program in Matlab. She even found time to carve a new banjo. Nice wood-working skills, Marilyn!

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A Visit to Año Nuevo Island

May 15, 2013

Angieby Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

In March the MS211 class (Ecology of Marine Turtles, Birds and Mammals) climbed onto a small inflatable boat, pointed offshore, and ran a half mile obstacle course through rocks, waves, and seals to Año Nuevo Island.

This tiny boat (named Dragon Rojo!) carried us to the island. About an eight-minute boat ride though, so not bad. Photo from Oikonos.org.

This tiny boat (named Dragon Rojo!) carried us to the island. About an eight-minute boat ride though, so not bad. Photo from Oikonos.org.

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They’re BACK!

March 27, 2013

otter-abby

If you have been holding off on going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium until the sea otter exhibit re-opens…Now is the time!  On Saturday, March 23rd the exhibit was once again opened for the public.  I was there – and the crowd went wild!  Actually, there might not have been a crowd…I was too happy to notice! (more…)

Chronicles of a Curious Beachcomber

February 21, 2013

by Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

A few Sundays ago — Super Bowl Sunday, in fact — I took a three-hour walk along the beach at Fort Ord in Monterey, CA with Don Glasco, a systems engineer and former cartographer.

This wasn’t a leisurely pursuit, but my volunteer service to the Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network’s (SIMoN) Coastal Ocean Mammal and Bird Education and Research Surveys, also known as Beach COMBERS.

I meet Don at Fort Ord Dunes State Park in Marina around 9 a.m. After downing the last of my coffee, we head out into the foggy morning.

Don Glasco referring to the almighty bird book to identify an unknown species by its toes. Photo by Angela Szesciorka.

Don Glasco referring to the almighty bird book to identify an unknown species by its toes.

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Check out the R/V Pt. Sur Blog!

January 15, 2013

The research vessel Pt. Sur has nearly completed its 8,000 mile journey to Antarctica! While crossing the Drake Passage, the crew was able to capture some great photos of the wildlife they observed.  Check out the Pt. Sur Blog to see these pictures and learn about their adventures along the way to the Palmer Research Station where MLML scientists will be supporting various research groups for two months during Antarctica’s summer months.

Hourglass Dolphin sited by the Pt. Sur during their crossing across the Drake Passage.

Hourglass Dolphin sighted by the Pt. Sur during their voyage across the Drake Passage.  Photo: Scott Hansen

R/V Pt. Sur

R/V Pt. Sur

Did you know?

  • The Pt. Sur crossed the equator for the first time in history on December 18, 2012.
  • The Palmer Research Station is an 180,000 square kilometer study area located to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula. The researchers study the polar marine biome, focusing on the Antarctic pelagic marine ecosystem, including sea ice habitats, regional oceanography and terrestrial nesting sites of seabird predators.

    Adelie penguins at the Palmer Research Station.

    Adelie penguins at the Palmer Research Station.

  •  The Antarctic continent is home to the Adélie penguin, a true polar species that is dependent on the availability of sea ice which acts as a critical platform from which they forage for food. Palmer scientists have documented an 85 percent reduction in Adélie penguin populations along the western Antarctic Peninsula since 1974. These records provide some of the earliest evidence that regional climate warming is negatively impacting the marine ecosystem. Without sea ice, the Adélie penguin access to prey decreases and winter survival becomes more challenging.

Dem bones, dem dry bones

October 3, 2012

by Jackie Schwartzstein, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Most of us remember the song from childhood:

‘Toe bone connected to the foot bone, Foot bone connected to the leg bone, Leg bone connected to the knee bone…’

But here at MLML the students in the Marine Birds and Mammals class (MS 112) are quickly finding that what we learned as kids just doesn’t seem to apply anymore! The skeletons of birds, marine mammals, and turtles are MUCH more complicated than the sweet little bones ditty implies. Have the animals changed since I was in fourth grade?! What exactly IS the ‘foot bone’, anyway?!

Rear limbs of the California Sea Lion.
Photo by Jackie Schwartzstein
Can you find the foot bone?

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Friends of MLML Host Screening of “Otter 501″

July 12, 2012

By Catherine Drake, Invertebrate Zoology Lab

One great aspect of being a student at Moss Landing Marine Labs is Friends of MLML, an organization designed to inform the public about MLML through tours and events, as well as help students with their research by providing scholarships. Friends of MLML put on events every other month that are free to the public. Last night was one such event: the screening of the film “Otter 501” presented by Sea Studios Foundation.

Otter 501 being rehabilitated at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

This film revolved around a stranded otter pup, Otter 501, and the young woman who found the pup, Katie Pofahl. The film depicts Otter 501’s journey toward rehabilitation at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Although her training on how to hunt was initially slow, Otter 501 learned the tricks to diving and finding prey from her adoptive otter mother, Toola. The film then shows Otter 501’s subsequent release into Elkhorn Slough, located about a mile north of MLML.

Otter 501 and her adoptive mother, Toola.

Following the movie, those who came to the event had a Q&A with Katie, who was also the narrator of the film. When asked if there were any updates on Otter 501’s whereabouts, Katie and fellow researchers present in the audience happily reported that she was spotted that very day in the Slough, interacting with a male!

For more information on events hosted by Friends of MLML, visit their Events page.

For more information about “Otter 501″ visit their Facebook page.

NOAA Budget Cuts: MLML Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Response Vanishing?

June 27, 2012

By Stephanie Hughes, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

If marine mammals are deemed the “canary in the coal mine” for our oceans, how can we predict threats to oceans and human health if funds that support long-term monitoring of these sentinels are eliminated?

The importance of monitoring the health of marine mammals goes beyond our “good Samaritan” duties of saving the cute and cuddly. Rescue and recovery attempts don’t always result in a happy ending, even though we hope for the best outcome. Regardless, our efforts are never in vain, for even failed attempts present us with the opportunity to discover clues for how the animal lived, so we may (hopefully) reveal how and why it died. Responding to diseased, injured, distressed, and even deceased marine mammals is our gateway to unveiling what these animals, and even humans, may be up against as environmental conditions are in flux.

The Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Response Network operates through the Vertebrate Ecology Laboratory (VEL) at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) and is a participant of the National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. The VEL-MLML stranding network has been in operation for over 20 years under the direction of Dr. Jim Harvey, professor and interim director of MLML. At its infancy, VEL-MLML stranding response, in collaboration with other stranding response organizations such as The Marine Mammal Center and Long Marine Laboratory, was conducted voluntarily.  Students, faculty, and members of the community would volunteer for rescuing, recovering, or collecting data on live and deceased stranded marine mammals. During the early years, equipment for stranding response was limited, thereby making the sample collection and storage to support long-term research difficult, though not impossible.  Volunteers often lacked proper transportation, sampling equipment, and protective gear, and many were without formal training on data or sample collection. Despite these shortcomings, dedicated volunteers would drag hundreds of pounds of dead, beached marine mammal heads, tails, flippers, etc. (yes, without latex gloves) through miles of sand dunes, then would strap their prized possession on top of their ’78 Toyota pick up, tails and flippers flapping in the wind on Highway 1 as they returned to the lab. During the early 1990s, the VEL-MLML stranding network had many willing, committed, and dedicated volunteers (still does). What it didn’t have were sufficient funds to support the infrastructure necessary for rapid, large scale, and long-term stranding response.

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It’s a Wonderful Lab

February 16, 2012

By Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab

In a day that some might describe as “the ideal lab experience,” four Moss Landing students set out to perform water sampling techniques for their chemical oceanography class, and enjoyed a day filled with surprises and adventure on the Monterey Bay.  Those students, from the phycology, physical, and biological oceanography labs, took MLML’s “Hurricane” Zodiac boat out to nine sites around the bay to collect seawater.  Along with two other groups that explored sections of Elkhorn Slough, the sampling effort was a snapshot of the concentration of silica in the surface waters of the bay and slough.

The day began with a lesson on instrumentation for determining temperature and salinity at each collection site.

Biological oceanography lab student Nicole Bobco checks the temperature and salinity measurements on the YSI field sampling sensor. (photo: D. Wyse)

Chemical oceanography professor Dr Kenneth Coale waves to the bay crew as he and students head off the explore and sample from the upper Elkhorn Slough. (photo: D. Wyse)

A handful of pinnipeds seen enjoying the beautiful weather on the bay crew's ride to the first sampling site. (photo: D. Wyse)

Biological oceeanography lab student April Woods reaches over the side of the Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) to collect a sample of seawater. (photo: D. Wyse)

En route to one of the sampling sites, phycology lab student, experienced boat driver, and keen marine mammal spotter Mike Fox caught sight of a pod of over 50 dolphins!  As the boat slowly approached, a handful of the common dolphins gracefully whizzed along by the boat and gave the delighted marine science students quite a show. (more…)


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