About This Project
A multidisciplinary team of researchers will assess the health of Guadalupe fur seal pups and adults by studying the wild population on Guadalupe Island off Baja California, Mexico. The goal is to gather information about several aspects of the physiology, ecology and behavior for this threatened species.
Please view this video for a quick look into life on Guadalupe Island, credit to OceansAloft LLC. Footage of marine mammals around 3:55 minutes.
Ask the ScientistsJoin The Discussion
What is the context of this research?
Guadalupe fur seals have recently experienced large numbers of strandings in California so understanding the dynamics of the wild population is incredibly timely and important. Recently, researchers from Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas (CICIMAR) in Baja California, Mexico have attempted to understand the causes of mortality and exposure to disease in wild fur seal pups and the foraging habits of adults while at sea. We plan to assist with this research and also perform anesthesia on adult animals to study their physiology in response to acute stressors in the environment.
What is the significance of this project?
Our goal is to understand how stressors can contribute to harmful changes in the physiology of fur seals in order to prevent these interactions in the future. Guadalupe fur seals are an important animal to study because they live and breed on a small isolated area in the Pacific Ocean and associate with areas of high marine productivity. They can be a sentinel species if there are disruptions to lower trophic levels or changes in ocean patterns, such as the current El Niño event that can affect prey abundance near their breeding grounds.
Establishing broader assessment of wild Guadalupe fur seals will provide critical information about the conservation and health of individual animals that can be applied to the management and conservation of marine species everywhere.
What are the goals of the project?
One way to measure stress and immune response in seals is via hormones and antibodies found in the blood. These hormones are prevalent in animals that have difficulties with adapting to current conditions or undergoing chronic stress in the environment. We plan to quantify these stress and immune markers and relate them to health functions and life history of the current population of fur seals.
Our team, which includes researchers from Sonoma State, marine mammal rehabilitation centers, and CICIMAR in Baja, will travel to Guadalupe Island in March 2016 to perform anesthesia and sample wild fur seals. Blood samples will be collected to analyze hematology and physiology, which will tell a story about exposure to infectious disease or amount of stress they are undergoing.
Understanding fur seal physiology will rely heavily on your generous donations. The field season will begin in March 2016 and travel to the field site is the most expensive aspect of completing the research.
Sampling is crucial to understanding the health and ecology of this species. The items we will purchase with your donations will go towards instruments that will be involved directly with handling the seals, such as anesthesia equipment and medical supplies for blood and sample collection.
How you can help!!
If you donate at least $50 dollars:
We will send you a individualized 8"x10" print of a wild fur seal taken by a scientist in the field. (Limited to U.S. shipping addresses)
It will also include a short description with data for this specific animal and natural history facts for Guadalupe fur seals. This is a rare opportunity to receive a photo of this species which lives in remote conditions that very few people travel to.
Meet the Team
I am currently a Masters Student at Sonoma State University and formerly Stranding Coordinator at The Marine Mammal Center. I'm a transplant from the Midwest who started working with wild marine
mammals as part of the stranding networks in both Alaska and California. My experiences at TMMC have allowed me to work with a number of talented and dedicated marine biologists and veterinarians. I've become hooked on the ocean and vertebrates that live within it. My interests involve pinniped ecology and conservation, with focus on how stressors can impact their physiology and health. Fur seals are personal favorites as they typically live in remote areas that can be exciting to travel to. Although I enjoy working with individual animals, my goal is to provide physiological data that can help manage conservation efforts for whole species and marine ecosystems.
Lorraine Barbosa, DVM, MPVM
I have been working with marine mammals for several years, including previously as a veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center, and currently as a veterinarian at California Wildlife Center. My interests include pinniped medicine and conservation, and working to enhance our understanding of and improve wildlife health.
I have been working with Guadalupe fur seal since my master. Knowing the mortality rate and causes of death for vulnerable otariid populations helps to establish and to improve conservation strategies. In spite of the Guadalupe fur seal status (endangered by Mexican Law), information about their mortality causes and health is scarce. Since 2014 and 2015 their mortality rate and starvation cases have been increasing This could be linked to a lack of maternal care or to poor nutrition.This cause was important because of warming of the Pacific Northeast (ENSO 2015 and "The Blob"), which has proved to have a negative effect on different otariid species due to changes in habitat, including prey availability. We need of economic support to continue with research to help us understand and evaluate the impact of this type and other phenomena among the Guadalupe fur seal population.
Photos of an adult male and female Guadalupe fur seal (above) and a young pup (below) taken in 2015 by Casandra Galvez, a researcher at CICIMAR in Baja California. Casandra studies causes of mortality in young pups.
- $5,017Total Donations
- $27.57Average Donation