About Our Lab

Under the guidance of Dr. Birgitte (Gitte) I. McDonald, graduate students in the Vertebrate Ecology Lab study the physiology, behavior and ecology of marine mammals, birds and turtles. Moss Landing Marine Labs' proximity to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve provides a wealth of pelagic, near-shore, and estuarine species and habitats for local study.  Current and former Vertebrate Ecology Lab students have conducted their graduate research both locally and throughout the world, including Cape Crozier Antarctica, the Pribilof Islands of Alaska, the San Juan Islands of Washington, the Channel Islands of southern California, the Hawaiian Islands, Mexico, Australia, Costa Rica, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Vertebrate Ecology Lab is also a member of the nationwide Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Network, sharing responsibility for strandings in Monterey County with The Marine Mammal Center. If you find a dead pinniped, cetacean, or sea turtle in Monterey county please call the MLML Stranding Hotline at 831-771-4422.

Lab News and Updates

  • VEL student Taylor Azizeh is awarded the NSF GRFP Fellowship!

    Welcome to the Vertebrate Ecology Lab, Sebastian and Vicky!
  • Welcome to the VEL!

    Welcome to the Vertebrate Ecology Lab, Sebastian and Vicky! Sebastian Caamaño is XX
  • Congrats to Parker Forman and Daphne Shen for defending their theses’.

    Congratulations to our very own Parker Forman and Daphne Shen for recently defending their theses'. Parker Forman Thesis Abstract: I described the at-sea behavior of emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) during late chick-rearing at Cape Crozier. Analyzing data from eight penguins, I investigated how intrinsic factors, including sex, size, and body condition influenced their behaviors. Penguins […]
  • Meet the 2023 NBP Penguin Team

    The 2023 Penguin Team just departed the National Science Foundation’s R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer after finishing up a productive field season in and around the Ross Sea, Antarctica. We interviewed each member to learn a bit more about them! Gitte McDonald Associate Professor, Moss Landing Marine Labs at San Jose State University What do you […]
  • Moss Landing Marine Lab Researchers head to Antarctica to study the post-molt behavior and ecology of Emperor Penguins.

    This winter a team for researchers from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories headed south to waters north of Marie Byrd Land to investigate the ecology and habitat preference of Ross Sea emperor penguins after the molt and through early reproduction, an important phase of the annual cycle that we know little about. The remarkable winter incubation […]

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