gerlinsky-tRunning on Empty:
Does nutritional status influence diving behavior in Steller sea lions?

For Western Alaska’s Steller sea lions, a change in the availability of their key prey may have caused widespread nutritional stress leading to the steep population decline. Do nutritionally stressed sea lions dive and forage as efficiently as they would at optimum health? A new Consortium study explores this question and more. September 4, 2014. See full story >


nordstrom-tForaging in Fine-Scale
New research details fur seal foraging patterns along ocean fronts

Northern fur seals in Alaska’s remote Pribilof Islands are vulnerable to changes in ocean currents. A new Consortium study mapped the foraging patterns of female fur seals and found new insights into how ocean currents can affect the success of a foraging trip.  January 6, 2014. See full story >

gerlinsky-t Calculating the limits of diving
Open water research provides clues to behavior in wild populations

Basic research into Steller sea lion physiology can help to answer important questions in the field. A recent Consortium study offers new insights into the physiological limits of diving, and could help researchers to better understand the behavior of sea lions in the wild. November 25, 2013. See full story >

benoit-bird-tPredators in the Prey Patch
New insights into the complex relationship between northern fur seals and pollock

A multidisciplinary team of scientists tracked the foraging patterns of northern fur seals to understand how they interact with walleye pollock, an important fish stock. What the researchers discovered may have significant implications for how the commercial pollock fishery is managed, and how declining populations of northern fur seals are protected. July 29, 2013. See full story >

gathering scatMeasuring Diet in the Lab: The Pros and Cons of QFASA
The secrets of a sea lion’s diet may lie in the chemical composition of its blubber. Scientists hope that analyzing the fatty acids in blubber using a new technique called Quantitative Fatty Acid Signature Analysis (QFASA) will help them describe long-term dietary trends. But is QFASA a reliable means to determine the diets of seals and sea lions? A new Consortium paper looks into this promising approach. April 22, 2013. See full story >

dolphinEating right key to survival of whales and dolphins
Predator-prey relationships have been likened to a nuclear arms race whereby each side is constantly evolving to outdo the other. A new study of cetaceans and their diets shows that quality of prey rather than sheer quantities of food is the major determinant in this race for supremacy. March 27, 2013. See full story >

When seals or sea lions are marked or tagged for research, do they suffer or behave differently than unmarked animals? A new study assesses the current science on this question, and suggests ways to improve animal welfare practices for marking and tagging in field studies. November 30, 2012  See full story >>

horning-tPredator Puzzle
New evidence for predation as keys factor in Steller Sea Lion collapse

A big challenge in studying Alaska’s declining Steller sea lion populations is to understand how and when deaths occur. A new study followed 36 juvenile sea lions throughout their lives, generating valuable data that emphasizes the impacts of predation on a population. July 30, 2012 See full story >>

fur-seal-tMeals for Seals
 Maximum rates of fish intake in northern fur seals
Young northern fur seals in Alaska face a constant struggle to capture enough food to survive. But how much food is enough, and which times of year are critical for growth? A new Consortium study measures the digestive capacity of young fur seals, and provides important information for conserving their wild populations and their prey. April 11, 2012 See full story >>

transient-005-md_tWhat’s in a Whistle? New study examines how transient killer whales communicate
When the slightest sound could give you away to your prey, you have to communicate carefully. That’s the lesson learned from transient killer whales hunting seals and sea lions, which have exceptional hearing. New Consortium research investigates how transients use whistles, and how their whistles differ from those of fish-eating residents. March 12, 2012 See full story >>

steller sea lions

Genes in a Bottle: Using DNA analysis to solve a dietary dilemma
To conserve declining populations of Steller sea lions in western Alaska, it is important to understand their diet. But determining what and how much sea lions eat is complicated. A recent Consortium study tests a sophisticated DNA analysis technique to answer these and other questions. The results could have far-reaching impacts. November 30, 2011 See full story>>

young2Metabolic Mysteries: Researchers explore connection between heart rate and energy expenditure
How much energy do Steller sea lions expend while diving and foraging in the remote North Pacific Ocean? Answering this question can help to conserve endangered populations. Two new Consortium studies examine the role of diving and digestion in metabolism. September 7, 2011 See full story>>


 Diving for DinnerThe mechanics of foraging and commuting in Steller sea lions
Foraging at sea is always a gamble for Steller sea lions. It is hard work to swim out to prey fields and dive for hours, and small changes in ocean conditions can hamper the hunt. Two new Consortium studies shed light on how ocean currents can affect the cost of foraging. January 17, 2011 See full story>>

predator2_smPortrait of a Predator: Photo study leads to estimate of killer whale population
How do you estimate a population of killer whales based on the momentary­ glimpse of a dorsal fin? If you’re a marine biologist, you study thousands of photos of dorsal fins to identify individual whales, and then apply complex statistics to estimate the whole population. A team of Consortium researchers recently did just that, producing some intriguing results. November 22, 2010 See full story >> 


Go Go Gadgets on the Go
A cornerstone of the captive sea lion research program has been the development and testing of new techniques that can be taken to the field to enhance the conservation of wild seals and sea lions.  One of these new technologies was recently test-driven by Steller sea lions at the Vancouver Aquarium and is now being used to study fur seals in the wild. November 1, 2010 See full story >>

nfs-tNorthern fur seals – a Tale of Two Critters
A recent experience with young northern fur seals resulted in unexpected insights into the physiology of fur seals, and stronger synergy between researchers and marine mammal trainers. The results represent a breakthrough in the world of conservation and animal care.  September 13, 2010 See full story>>

2_smGo Go Gadget Accelerometer
Researchers have long been searching for an improved method of studying marine mammal foraging behavior. Could the answer to their prayers come in the form of an electronic device that fits in the palm of a hand? Consortium researchers recently tested the mettle of this promising new technology. June 9, 2010 See full story>>

hormones_tEndocrine Explorations

When faced with a food shortage, a sea lion’s endocrine system takes charge, regulating the body through the hormones it secretes. Consortium researchers recently took a closer look at this complex system, hoping for a clearer picture of how the physiology of Steller sea lions responds in times of trouble. March 3, 2010  See full story>>

rosen_izzyStress Case: Laboratory Studies – One More Piece of the Puzzle
The marine mammal research community has spent the past two decades debating the cause of Steller sea lion population decline in the North Pacific, but one hypothesis in particular has attracted much attention and debate…January 18, 2010 see full story>>

dudot2_tDecisions, Decisions
There comes a time each year in every Steller sea lion’s life when it must go without food. But exactly how sea lions pull through in times of decreased energy intake has long been a mystery to scientists. Recently, however, a group of Consortium researchers shed new light on the decisions sea lions make when allocating energy during times of food shortages. November 18, 2009. See full story >>

tollit_smScat Science
Aiming to improve upon traditional methods of reconstructing pinniped diets, Consortium researchers recently integrated cutting-edge DNA technology into a conventional method of analyzing scat samples — and proved that a little change can indeed be a good thing. September 16, 2009. See full story >>

rea_smThe Fasts of Life:Seasonal Differences in Biochemical Adaptation to Fasting in Juvenile and Subadult Steller Sea Lions
Fasting is a significant part of the Steller sea lion’s life history, but until recently, researchers knew little about the physiological changes that occur while the animal goes without food. Consortium researchers recently delved into the biochemical details of fasting—and emerged with interesting findings. August 20, 2009 See full story >>

Ecopath, Virtual Ecosystems, and the Status of the Gulf of Alaska
Not all Consortium research takes place in natural ecosystems, or even with live subjects. A team of researchers employed an innovative software program to reconstruct and understand two ecosystems in the Gulf of Alaska that are drastically different today compared to the past. They will be presenting their findings at an upcoming conference highlighting the ability of Ecopath software to describe and predict the dynamics of complex marine ecosystems. May 11, 2009 See full story>

berman_smPutting a Price Tag on Habitat Conservation
Consortium researchers recently developed a method to evaluate the economic costs of habitat-driven fishery closures. By taking spatial considerations and environmental variables into account, they came up with a relevant approach to determining the financial cost of habitat conservation.March 3, 2009 See full story >>

Summertime Blues: Does time of year affect recovery from nutritional stress? 
Alaska’s stormy winters would seem to pose a bigger challenge to survival for Steller sea lions than the relatively mild summers. But a new Consortium study suggests that summer is a more critical period for sea lions under nutritional stress. Following a prolonged reduction in quantity and quality of prey, sea lions appeared to recover more slowly in summer than in winter, which could affect their survival and reproduction.February 9, 2009. see full story >>


Reconstructing the Past: Prehistoric data helps to assess modern Pacific cod fishery
The Aleut word for Pacific cod translates to “the fish that stops”. A recent study using prehistoric palaeoecological data provides clues to the origins of this word, as well as insights into natural cycles that cod have experienced for thousands of years. The bones recovered from middens also provide a basis for evaluating the effects of modern day fisheries on the size of Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska. January 20, 2009. See full story >


Critical Habitat Revisited: Researchers Develop Predictive Model to Improve Legislation
Federal laws that designate Critical Habitat have played a key role in conserving marine mammals in Alaska, but the information they are based on is now dated. Consortium researchers have used more recent knowledge to better predict the occurrence of sea lions at sea, providing policy makers with new tools to refine and update current legislation designating Critical Habitat. Nov. 24, 2008 See full story>>

nordstrom_smDeconstructing the Diet: New Model May Help to Quantify Prey Consumption
Studying the diet of marine mammals can reveal important information about their ecological role. But traditional techniques of analyzing diet are imperfect. Recently, Consortium researchers tested a model designed to determine the relative proportions of prey consumed by harbor seals. The innovative process examines the unique chemical remnants of prey that are incorporated into the seal’s living blubber. July 21, 2008  See full story >>



r_k_smHormone Changes Shed Light on Nutritional Stress

Steller sea lions have different energetic needs in each season—and in each season the body responds differently to food shortages. Recently, scientists examined the seasonal changes in hormone levels in Steller sea lions under a restricted diet. They found that sea lions are most vulnerable to food shortages at times of year when key human fisheries, which compete for the same prey, are most active. June 23, 2008  See full story >>




Treading Lightly in Breeding Areas: Scientists Seek to Reduce Disturbance on Rookeries
Steller sea lion researchers face a dilemma: how can biological field samples be collected from breeding sea lions without disturbing them? New research suggests an approach that may paint an accurate dietary picture while reducing the presence of scientists in sensitive areas. June 2, 2008 See full story >>



fahlman_smFast Foraging: Scientists Measure Underwater Acceleration in Three Dimensions
What is the best way to measure the energy expended by diving Steller sea lions? A new study tests underwater acceleration as a novel way to estimate the energetic cost of foraging. April 21, 2008 See full story >>