Presentation Title

Northern Elephant Seal Pup Mortality and El Niño Events at Point Reyes National Seashore

Location

Online - Session 3A

Start Date

4-21-2021 1:30 PM

Major Field of Study

Biological Sciences

Student Type

Undergraduate

Faculty Mentor(s)

Doreen Gurrola, MS

Presentation Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Description

In 2016, Dominican University of California began collaborating with the National Park Service by surveying northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) at Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS). After being hunted down to near extinction during the 1800s, northern elephant seals (NES) were first seen at PRNS during the 1970s. The colony was re-established in the 1980s, during which PRNS researchers began collecting data and tagging weaned pups. Seals have been observed to haul out year round at several sites near the Chimney Rock Headland. Through weekly observations, data on total number of seals at each haul out site, gender and age ratios, pup mortality, tag resights, and weather conditions were collected under PRNS permits. Using count survey data collected by PRNS and DUC, the relationship between NES pup mortality and El Niño events, weather phenomenon associated with unusually warm ocean surface temperatures, will be evaluated. Through a problem-based learning approach, this case study will provide novel observations at PRNS as a lesson on climate change and the resulting increased frequency and intensity of storms and El Niño events, as well as how climate change may affect land management and protection of NES.

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Apr 21st, 1:30 PM

Northern Elephant Seal Pup Mortality and El Niño Events at Point Reyes National Seashore

Online - Session 3A

In 2016, Dominican University of California began collaborating with the National Park Service by surveying northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) at Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS). After being hunted down to near extinction during the 1800s, northern elephant seals (NES) were first seen at PRNS during the 1970s. The colony was re-established in the 1980s, during which PRNS researchers began collecting data and tagging weaned pups. Seals have been observed to haul out year round at several sites near the Chimney Rock Headland. Through weekly observations, data on total number of seals at each haul out site, gender and age ratios, pup mortality, tag resights, and weather conditions were collected under PRNS permits. Using count survey data collected by PRNS and DUC, the relationship between NES pup mortality and El Niño events, weather phenomenon associated with unusually warm ocean surface temperatures, will be evaluated. Through a problem-based learning approach, this case study will provide novel observations at PRNS as a lesson on climate change and the resulting increased frequency and intensity of storms and El Niño events, as well as how climate change may affect land management and protection of NES.