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

  • Three new interns are joining the VEL for the summer!

    We are so excited to welcome our three interns for the summer!     Roxane is an undergraduate student pursing a degree in Marine Sciences at San Francisco State University. She is from a small town in San Diego, where she discovered her passion for marine life. She grew up on a beach where sewage […]
  • Welcome to the new VEL post-doc, Martin Tournier!

    The Vertebrate Ecology Lab is excited to welcome our new post-doctoral researcher, Martin Tournier. Martin will be working on an NSF-funded project investigating the physiological and behavioral ecology of emperor penguin. Martin comes from France, where he completed two MS degrees in Oceanography and Marine Ecology, and Ecological Modelling. He got his Ph.D. from La […]
  • Happy New Year from the VEL!

    The VEL rung in the New Year and the start of the semester with a group dinner at the Whole Enchilada in Moss Landing. We hope you had a restful winter break and spent time with your loved ones!
  • Congrats on advancing to candidacy!

    Congratulations to VEL student Taylor Azizeh for advancing to candidacy! Taylor's thesis will focus on investigating the foraging ecology of late chick-rearing emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) off Cape Crozier, West Antarctica. Specifically, Taylor will use machine learning to identify potential foraging events from biologging data. By combining foraging attempt and dive data, Taylor can estimate […]
  • Enjoying the Monterey Bay winter!

    The Vertebrate Ecology Lab got out onto the Nisene Marks trails today and enjoyed a lovely hike. No winter hike in the Monterey Bay would be complete without a little rain! From left to right: Amber Diluzio, Sierra Fullmer, Daphne Shen, Gitte McDonald, Sebastian Caamaño, Emma Nicholson, and Kali Prescott

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