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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Monday, June 30, 2014

Nursery group and hike


Photo Album

Uploaded: Mon Jun 30 03:49:56 2014
by Heidi Pearson

Yesterday, we had another beautiful day on the water. It was a calm, clear day, and the duskies were in the northern part of our study site. In fact, during our morning check of the water and weather conditions, we spotted them from land. They were just off "Shark's tooth", a tip of land that juts out from the Kaikoura Peninsula that, not surprisingly, is in the shape of a shark's tooth. This was the furthest northeast that we have seen them this season, so we were eager to get out on the water.

It took us only 10 minutes to reach the group. We were expecting to find the large "mixed" pod, composed of dolphins of all ages and sexes. Instead, we found a nursery group of about 75 individuals. More than 50% of individuals were mom-calf pairs. We did our usual routine of photo-id and behavioral observations and stayed with the group for about 2.5 hours. We oftentimes observe the same pod that the dolphin tour boat does, so we are careful to stay out of each other's way and not put too much pressure on the dolphins at any one time.

The nursery group was traveling, socializing, and resting for the first three-quarters of our observation. Then, suddenly, they started rapid "burst swimming" and leaping all together. They headed straight east and away from the coast. This sudden, rapid travel could have been caused by a threat such as a killer whale, but we didn't see any nor did we hear any reports on the radio about killer whales in the area. We could barely keep up with the group, they were moving so quickly. We finally caught up with them when they slowed down. By this time, the nursery group had broken up into several smaller groups. We spent the remainder of our time observing a group of 5 that was resting and socializing, perhaps recovering from their sprint.

Today, the northeast winds were blowing at gale force, so we weren't on the water. Once the winds died down, we took a hike around the Kaikoura Peninsula. We started at the fur seal colony. Like us, the fur seals were also enjoying the sunny day and sleeping right on the boardwalk. Another was sleeping just beneath the "Do not disturb the seals" sign. Our walk up the peninsula took us by sweeping views of the coast, windblown trees, and sheep pastures.

We also passed by the Hutton's shearwater colony. The Hutton's shearwater is an endangered seabird only found in New Zealand. To protect against extinction, a new colony was created on the Kaikoura Peninsula a few years ago. The plan is working, and chicks that were originally translocated here in 2010 are now having their own chicks! This is a good example of a proactive, conservation success story.

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