The Behavioral REsearch And eCosystem Health lab

at the University of Alaska Southeast &

the College of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks



The overall aim of this lab is to understand the behavior and ecology of marine mammals, and their role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. A wide network of collaborators, undergraduates, and graduate students are involved in projects related to this theme. Click on the links to the right to learn more about current research and students. 

If you are a prospective student, please read through the project descriptions on this website. Also review the admission requirements to the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences: I do not currently have funding to support additional students. However, highly talented students may be able to obtain their own funding so please contact me if you are interested.




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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Forest Fur Seals


Photo Album

Uploaded: Thu Jun 19 01:15:27 2014
by Heidi Pearson

It was too windy for fieldwork this morning, so we headed north about 30 km to Ohau to visit the fur seal colony. This is an amazing place where New Zealand fur seal pups congregate in a waterfall pool and stream. As far as I know, this is the only place in the world where this happens! 

These pups are dependent on their moms for about 10 months. Fur seals don't feed while they're on land, so a mother must alternate between making feeding trips offshore and being on land to nurse her pup. While the moms are off feeding, many pups at Ohau swim up the river to the waterfall pool. Here, they frolic and play, and socialize with dozens of other fur seal pups. This is an important part of their social development.

When we arrived this morning, we saw about half a dozen pups in the lower reaches of the river. As we walked up the short 10-min trail to the pool, we saw pups sleeping in the forest at the base of trees. You would never think to look for a marine mammal in the forest! Once we make it to the waterfall, we saw about 3 dozen pups. There was so much to watch! Some were leaping and somersaulting in the water, others were perched on rocks, and others were play-fighting. We assumed these were male pups, practicing the skills that will later enable them to obtain a mating territory.

After leaving the forest we walked across the street to the ocean-side colony. Here, there were countless other fur seal adults and pups. Just as we were turning to leave, a stampede of 8 pups came charging down the river and back to the ocean-side colony. Ohau is certainly a good place to be a fur seal! The species overall is doing quite well in New Zealand, after being hunted severely for their meat and luxurious pelts. The population has been increasing since gaining protection in 1978.



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