MARINE MAMMAL RESEARCH UNIT - UBC

News from MMRU

It’s Been Two Years!

Last week graduate students from the Marine Mammal Research Unit attended their first in-person conferences in two years!

Decoding the secret lives of killer whales one micro-second at a time

Long gone are the days when a biologist could analyze a set of behavioural data by hand.  Advancements in technology have put an end to that. Fortunately, teams of statisticians are coming to the rescue.

Grey Whale Watching in Baja California Sur, Mexico 

It’s that time of year again, when people and grey whales head to the lagoons of Baja, Mexico for the annual winter event.

Long-term studies quantify the prey requirements of pinnipeds, and help predict the effects of nutritional stress.

Two new studies answer the question: “How much fish does a seal need?” One of the most common threats to marine mammal populations is reduced food supply, either due to the effects of climate change or human fishing pressure.

How big is that whale?

New data from stranded whales is yielding better estimates of body sizes needed to determine drug dosages, and assess the health and food requirements of whales.

You can’t beat a healthy heart

New research is shedding light on the hearts of healthy marine mammals, and how they compare to human hearts

No apparent shortage of prey for southern resident killer whales in the Salish Sea during summer

Researchers found four to six times more Chinook salmon in the Salish Sea in summertime compared with numbers of fish available to the growing population of northern resident killer whales.

2021 MMRU Students

After more than a year of working remotely, our graduate students are starting to head back to campus. They have been busy studying grey whales, killer whales, sea otters, sea lions, and much, much more….

What do differences in animal behaviour reveal about the decline of Steller sea lions in Alaska?

More than 50 years of studying Steller sea lion behaviour has yielded one of the most complete life history descriptions for any species of marine mammal.

The Killers of California and Oregon

Thirteen years of photo-identification data of killer whales observed in California and Oregon provide new insights into the distribution and population structure of mammal-eating killer whales in the eastern North Pacific Ocean.

Blue herons identified as a top juvenile salmon predator

It is more than just seals that are preying on the bounty of juvenile salmon exiting river mouths each spring.

How to Power A Walrus

New study shows loss of sea ice will require walruses to swim more and eat more to survive climate change

Harbour seals respond differently to pulses of out-migrating coho and Chinook salmon smolts 

Biologging data from foraging harbour seals shows less impact on outmigrating salmon than expected. A few seals in the study…

SWIMMING WITH THE POD

For the past two weeks, UBC Researchers led by Dr. Andrew Trites have been studying the feeding behaviours of northern resident killer whales.

Bowhead whales feed year-round in Cumberland Sound, Nunavut

Satellite telemetry and time-depth recorders are providing new and surprising insights into the secret lives of bowhead whales Bowhead whales…

GO WALRUS GO!

Dr. David Rosen, an Assistant Professor at UBC’s Marine Mammal Research Unit, has often contended that walrus should be the…

A Window into the Lives of Resident Killer Whales

This summer, a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia, together with the Hakai Institute, set out to…

27th Annual BC Marine Mammal Symposium

Saturday November 23, 2019 27th AnnualB.C. MARINE MAMMAL SYMPOSIUMSaturday, November 23, 2019 – 9:30 am – 5:00 pm UNIVERSITY OF…

Struggle in the Strait

Is seal predation driving salmon declines in the Strait of Georgia? To many people, the sight of a harbor seal…

Do Foraging Strategies Matter?

Are female northern fur seals finding enough food to help their pups survive? The first few months at sea are…

From the Lab

It’s a Drag Wearing a…

26th Annual B.C. MARINE MAMMAL SYMPOSIUM

Saturday November 24, 2018 Join us for presentations as well as discussion on issues that concern us all. This meeting…

Drawing First Blood

Researchers publish first reference ranges for Steller sea lions Over the past 15 years, a small group of Steller sea…

13th LARKIN LECTURE

Climate contributions to hard times in US West Coast salmon fisheries SPEAKER: Nate Mantua NOAA NMFS    Southwest Fisheries Science Center…

Dr. Andrew Trites wins the Timothy R. Parsons Medal

Dr. Andrew W. Trites (on left) – receives award from Andrew Stewart who represented DFO. Congratulations to our very own…

Into the Field

Bowhead rubbing Sometimes the coolest things happen, when you least expect it. These four bowhead whales…

Marine Mammal Research Newsletter – March 2018 – Issue 17

Into the Field Bowhead rubbing Sometimes the coolest things happen, when you least expect it. <see full story> From the…

This Just In

7 new publications… Molting bowhead whales, northern fur seal diets, killer whale foraging behavior, measuring stroke rates of sea lions…

Science Inreach

Oil painting “Hide and Seek” by Bruce Muir (2017) showing a southern resident killer whale pursuing Chinook salmon. Workshop held…

Science Outreach

SMM and AMSS Conferences A full house gathered in a hockey rink in eastern Canada as the pinniped scientists took…

From the Lab

How fat is that sea lion? Estimating the body condition of Steller sea lions may be as simple as pushing…

Fur Seals in Focus

Studying Acceleration and Energetics… in 3-D A fur seal “fitness tracker” called a Daily Diary Tag…

25th Annual B.C. MARINE MAMMAL SYMPOSIUM

Watch the Symposium from November 25, 2017: https://youtu.be/KtoEaTNkAfY Join us for presentations as well as discussion on issues that concern…

Into the Field: Harbor seals prey on salmon smolts

Hassen Allegue uses his laptop computer to program one of the biologging tags before deploying it…

August 2017 – This Just In

7 new publications… [webref_pretty title=”Accelerometers can measure total and activity-specific energy expenditure in free-ranging marine mammals only if linked to…

Science Outreach – August 2017

Science Outreach 21st Annual meeting of the Northwest Student Chapter of Marine Mammalogy Nearly 60 people from BC, Washington and…

August 2017 – Off the Bench

Off the Bench Nattan Telmer shows some of the equipment he used to test the ability…

Marine Mammal Research Newsletter   |  August 2017 (Issue 16)

Into the Field Harbour seals prey on salmon smolts Biologging tags reveal specialist-feeding behaviors by seals that have implications for…

Steller Research Front and Center

Steller sea lion research at the Vancouver Aquarium is undergoing a major overhaul!   The sea lions at the Aquarium moved…

Stroke Signals

Studying flipper strokes in…

Course Correction

Statistics brings fur seal foraging trips into focus For northern fur seals, a foraging trip in the Bering Sea can…

A Window to the Wild

Open Water Research Station Contributes a Decade of Discoveries This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the Open Water Research…

On-line Marine Mammal Symposium

The 24th Annual BC Marine Mammal Symposium was streamed on YouTube Live, Saturday, November 26 2016. About 230 people attended…

ROLLING IN THE DEEP

New Behaviors Observed in Northern Fur Seals Thanks to the emergence of new technologies in tagging, scientists are able to…

Analyzing Appetites in Harbor Seals

New DNA technique offers dietary insights Of all the species that share the North Pacific Ocean with humans, among the…

Dietary Dilemma

Which prey offer the greatest energetic return? In the remote reaches of the Bering Sea, the Pribilof Islands were once…

High-Tech Tracking in the Bering Sea

Electronic tags reveal secrets of  foraging fur seals Northern fur seals in the eastern Bering Sea spend most of their…

Evolution of a Hunter

Do feeding strategies drive resilience? Many thousands of years ago, the ancient ancestors of today’s seals and sea lions moved…

Decisions at Depth: Does prey availability drive foraging behavior?

Sitka, one of 4 Steller sea lions trained to wear a harness carrying scientific instruments while…

12th LARKIN LECTURE: What the past tells us about the future of fisheries and oceans research in British Columbia

Dr. Richard Beamish From the Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo, BC Thursday, October 29, 2015 2:00 – 4:00 pm Openhouse: Learn about IOF…

A Controversial Catch

Are Steller sea lion populations affected by commercial fishing? Scientists have proposed a number of possible explanations behind the mysterious…

The Science of Stress: A Nutrigenomic Approach

Feeling stressed? It’s a common complaint, but stress isn’t a uniquely human condition. Marine mammals also experience stress, especially when…

The Long View: A Historical Perspective on Steller Sea Lion Declines

image caption: An Aleut hunter in the Bering Sea with an anchored Russian ship in the background (watercolor by Louis…

Cool Waters, Warm Bodies

image caption: Two northern fur seal pups amongst sleeping adult females on the Pribilof Islands. Are young northern fur seals…

Is predation by harbor seals on juvenile fish responsible for the poor recovery of salmon?

Into the Field Chinook and coho are two of British Columbia’s most valuable salmon species.  However, their numbers are at…

Running on Empty

 Does nutritional status influence diving behavior in Steller sea lions? If you have ever searched for a gas station while…

Foraging in Fine-Scale

Pups and adult female northern fur seals look on as a bull makes threatening calls. New research details northern fur…

Calculating the limits of diving

Carling Gerlinsky on the diving platform with Hazy and two Steller sea lion trainers from the Vancouver Aquarium. The diving…

The status of marine mammal populations is of growing concern to a wide range of individuals. Questions are being asked…

21st Annual B.C. MARINE MAMMAL SYMPOSIUM

 Saturday, November 23, 2013 – 9:30am – 5:00pm UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM RESEARCH LABORATORY GROUND FLOOR, AERL, 2202 MAIN…

Predators in the Prey Patch

New insights into the complex relationship between fur seals and pollock A multidisciplinary team of scientists tracked the foraging patterns…

Measuring Diet in the Lab: The Pros and Cons of QFASA

At the heart of unraveling the precipitous decline of Western Alaska’s Steller sea lions are two key questions: What do they…

Eating right – key to survival of whales and dolphins

In the marine world, high-energy prey make for high-energy predators. And to survive, these marine predators need to sustain the…

Standing Out from the Crowd

How does scientific marking and tagging affect marine mammals? For decades, field researchers have applied paints, dyes, brands and telemetry…

Predator Puzzle: New evidence for predation as key factor in Steller Sea Lion collapse

Markus Horning spent the summer of 1998 in the remote Aleutian Islands, conducting…

Meals for Seals: Maximum rates of fish intake in northern fur seals

Every October in Alaska’s remote Pribilof Islands, thousands of four-month-old northern fur seals take to the frigid waters of the…

What’s in a Whistle?

New study examines how transient killer whales communicate first published March 2012 For transient killer whales on the hunt, making the…

Genes in a Bottle

Using DNA analysis to solve a dietary dilemma The mysterious decline of Steller sea lions in Western Alaska presents a…

Metabolic Mysteries: Researchers explore connection between heart rate and energy expenditure

Scientists believe the precipitous decline of Western Alaska’s sea lion populations is driven by changes in the availability of their…

Diving for Dinner: The mechanics of foraging and commuting in Steller sea lions

As Steller sea lions decline in parts of the North Pacific Ocean, Consortium scientists are working to understand how sea…

Portrait of a Predator: Photo study leads to estimate of killer whale population

The sleek dorsal fin of a killer whale is an unmistakable sight in any ocean, but to the practiced eye…

Go Go Gadget on the Go

The sea lions and fur seals in the Consortium’s captive research program work with researchers to test hypotheses that explain…

Northern 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…

Go Go Gadget Accelerometer

It fits in the palm of your hand, looks straight out of a James Bond film, and promises to help…

Endocrine Explorations

To land-dwellers, a sea lion’s life looks fairly uneventful: swim, eat, sleep and reproduce. In fact, a sea lion leads…

Laboratory Studies – One More Piece of the Puzzle

Scientific questions — like whether nutritional stress has led to the decline of Steller sea lion populations — are too…

Decisions, Decisions

 As the far lesser-known adage goes, “It ain’t easy being marine.” This especially applies to the wild Steller sea lion,…

Scat Science

It might not be the most glamorous aspect of a biologist’s work, but the study of fecal matter is an…

Seasonal Differences in Biochemical Adaptation to Fasting in Juvenile and Subadult Steller Sea Lions

The Fasts of Life Unappealing as it may be to most humans, fasting is a fact of life for Steller…

Ecopath, Virtual Ecosystems, and the Status of the Gulf of Alaska

Ecopath was conceived by Dr. Polovina (NOAA) and advanced by Drs. Pauly, Christensen and Walters (UBC Fisheries Centre) — and…

Putting a Price Tag on Habitat Conservation

Protecting natural habitats rarely occurs without sparking controversies—usually among those whose livelihoods depend on resources within the protected areas. Conservation…

Summertime Blues

Does time of year affect recovery from nutritional stress? Winter in the North Pacific Ocean is considered the most difficult…

Reconstructing the Past: Prehistoric data helps to assess modern Pacific cod fishery

Pacific cod are among the most heavily fished species in the Northern Hemisphere, and once-thriving populations have significantly declined in…

Critical Habitat Revisited

Researchers Develop Predictive Model to Improve Legislation Federal laws that designate so-called Critical Habitat for Steller sea lions have played…

Deconstructing the Diet

New Model May Help to Quantify Prey Consumption Harbor seals play an important predatory role in the North Pacific Ocean,…

Hormone Changes Shed Light on Nutritional Stress

Like most mammals, Steller sea lions require varying amounts of food throughout the year, according to such appetite-influencing factors as…

Treading Lightly in Breeding Areas

Scientists Seek to Reduce Disturbance on Rookeries To better understand the diet of wild Steller sea lions populations, Consortium scientists…

Fast Foraging

Scientists Measure Underwater Acceleration in Three Dimensions As part of the ongoing effort to conserve dwindling Steller sea lion populations…