MMRU is an integrated unit within the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries that works with other departments and institutions, combining specialties in a coordinated effort to provide independent research and advice on matters related to marine mammals.

The research program consists of four components:

1. Field studies contrasting healthy sea lion populations in Southeast Alaska, British Columbia and Oregon with declining populations in the Gulf of Alaska; and hands-on investigation of declining northern fur seal populations on the Pribilof Islands;

2.  Captive studies on Steller sea lions and northern fur seals to enable the development and testing of new techniques and technologies for studying marine mammals in the wild; and to provide information that field studies cannot, such as physiological data, nutritional requirements and how they use energy derived from food;

3. Developing new measurement techniques for processing biological samples;

4. Interdisciplinary studies that analyze historical data sets, construct mathematical models and involve laboratory analysis.

Some specific questions being explored are:

  • what are the abundance and population trends of marine mammals?
  • what criteria can be used to determine population health?
  • how much prey is consumed?
  • what is the resource base and how is it affected by marine mammals?
  • where do marine mammals occur and what determines their distribution and habitat needs?