A Day on the Water Tagging Whales


Brijonnay Madrigal of the Vertebrate Ecology lab authored this post on whale tagging as part of Dr. Gitte McDonald’s Marine Mammal class blog series. 




A group of students in the marine mammal field class enjoy observing whales from the top deck of the John Martin [Photo Credit: Jennifer Johnson, MLML student]

Tagging marine mammals is a highly difficult procedure and a skill that requires extreme finesse from scientists. Due to the high speeds that large baleen whales travel and the short amount of time their dorsal side is exposed at the surface, it requires a quick deployment and impeccable timing. When a whale is at the surface, it usually comes up for a few breathes before diving down. Therefore, there are only a few moments when tagging is possible. Being able to participate in such fieldwork was very exciting for a group of MLML students. This April, students in MS 211: Ecology of Marine Turtle, Birds and Mammals had the opportunity to aid Dave Cade in his research in Monterey Bay. Continue reading

Posted in Classes, Cool Creatures, Fieldwork | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Monterey is Expensive: The cost of disturbance


Heather Barrett recording sea otter behavior during a disturbance scan.

Guest post by Heather Barrett of the Vertebrate Ecology Lab.

The crisp morning begins with stretches, a barrel role here and there, and one of the members breaking off to search for a crab breakfast. The raft bobs as the distant boat wake lifts each otter in a wave; rocking them gently in a water cradle. There are five mothers with cotton-ball pups that begin the tedious nursing and grooming process, lifting the plush bodies and breathing warm air in to their Einstein frizz. But the calm morning routines will soon be disrupted and turn to disorder. The bright colored beasts have arrived, aiming the kayak bows towards the otter raft, paddles drumming as they hit the surface of the water. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Exploring the beach: A gateway to science

Tyler profile pic 

Guest post by Tyler Barnes of the Geological Oceanography Lab.

To say that I was not intrigued by science as a teenager would be an enormous understatement. I despised science. I often attribute uninspired teaching and an inadequate education system for this reaction, but in reality I was just a moody teenager preoccupied by other interests (for the record, I have enormous respect for the teachers and administrators that have influenced my education). My disregard for science at the time is somewhat surprising. My earliest memories included being unwillingly dragged away from the beach after hours of exploration, or learning to cast a fishing rod just right so as not to snag a tree branch. These experiences morphed into forecasting swells with my dad before surfing and competing in local junior lifeguard competitions. So why was I so uninterested in science? Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Environmental Changes are Influencing Individuals, Not Just Populations

Written by San Jose State University graduate student, Abram Fleishman.

Each December my news feeds, from Facebook and Twitter to professional listservs and
mainstream news sources, are inundated by a flood of stories about one bird. Not one
species of bird, but actually a single individual living on one of the most remote islands in one of the most remote archipelagos in the world. A bird that if it was not beautiful, elegant, and most of all old, no one would care about.


Wisdom preens her freshly-hatched chick on Midway Atoll. (Photo: Naomi Blinick)

Continue reading

Posted in Classes, Cool Creatures, Fieldwork, Oh, the Places We Go!, Take Action! | Leave a comment

Life on the beach: My first field season as an elephant seal researcher

Third installment of the blog series by students enrolled in MS 211: Ecology of Marine Mammals, Birds and Turtles with faculty member Dr. Gitte McDonald. 

By Kate High, SJSU undergraduate taking classes at MLML


Mel re-sighting elephant seals. Photo source: Kate High


Interning in the Vertebrate Ecology Lab at Moss Landing Marine Laboratory this past year has given me countless opportunities to participate in activities most undergraduate students at SJSU might not know exist. I began training for elephant seal research at Año Nuevo State Park at the beginning of January. Even though I’ve had a lot of field experience, I can honestly say I have never been more nervous about a field day in my life. Continue reading

Posted in Cool Creatures, Fieldwork, Classes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Day In the Life of an Elephant Seal Biologist at Año Nuevo State Park

(Today, we have another post courtesy of MS 211: Ecology of Marine Mammals, Birds and Turtles, this time from Moss Landing student and author Jenni Johnson. She is going to talk about the hectic but rewarding work involved in elephant seal research at Año Nuevo State Park.)

BEEP! BEEP! I roll over to turn off my alarm and read the clock: 4:30 a.m. Begrudgingly I arise, slip into my field clothes, and head to the kitchen to make breakfast before beginning the forty-five minute commute to Long Marine Lab (LML). As I drive north, I mentally prepare myself for the day ahead. Today our focus is assisting with the annual weanling weighing effort. Upon arrival at LML, the field crew assembles all necessary gear, electronically checks into the park, and then piles into the truck. As we cruise up Highway 1 the sky begins to lighten, gradually revealing the charming California coast while the truck buzzes with conversation.

Version 2

Twenty minutes later the truck pulls into the entrance of Año Nuevo and turns right down the limited access road. The progression is slow as we carefully survey the dirt road for endangered San Francisco garter snakes. I take this opportunity to observe the magnificent landscape, hoping to catch a glimpse of deer, coyotes, bobcats, or the elusive cougar. Alas, no such luck today. Instead, I admire the soft glow of the early morning light and the captivating shades of pink and orange spilling across the sky, signaling the eminent arrival of the sun. I feel excitement start to build as we park the truck.

Continue reading

Posted in Classes, Cool Creatures, Fieldwork, Oh, the Places We Go! | Leave a comment

MLML Students at the Forefront of Marine Science: Will Fennie, Ichthyology Lab


Will Fennie in the field collecting data. Photo Source: Will Fennie

Whether it be out in the field or inside the lab, conducting research is often what people imagine as the highlight of science. However, once that research is completed, then what? For many scientists, it’s the impact of their research that is viewed as a true career highlight. MLML alum, Will Fennie, had his first taste of this success when research from his Master’s thesis contributed to a well-publicized paper on juvenile rockfish and ocean acidification.

Species-Specific Responses of Juvenile Rockfish to Elevated pCO2: From Behavior to Genomics

For this study, Dr. Scott Hamilton, professor of Ichthyology at MLML, served as first author and his student, Will Fennie, served as third author. Continue reading

Posted in MLML in the News, Uncategorized, Vicky Vásquez | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment