Elephant Seal Field Season Wrap Up!

Greetings from the Vertebrate Ecology Lab

You may not know this, but much of research here in the Vert Lab is on the ever charismatic Northern Elephant Seal! Each year, we get to work with colleagues from institutions such as UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, Sonoma State, and many more, to investigate the lives of these incredible animals. There are dozens of research topics from biologging studies, foraging ecology, sleep studies, reproductive success, dive behavior, stress responses, and more being investigated by our little research group here at MLML and by our colleagues elsewhere.

Currently we are wrapping up a very successful field season, which typically runs from November to early June. This year we investigated the feasibility of new physiological biologgers including testing non-invasive near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) dataloggers to measure arterial blood oxygenation and MOxyLog sensors for measuring muscle oxygen (National Science Foundation Grant #: 1656282). These loggers will aid in future physiological studies that improve our understanding of how these animals perform long deep dives and how they are impacted by anthropogenic stressors

This year, we got to do all of this in addition to our yearly participation in the field efforts out at Año Nuevo State Park including: helping with daily resights, deploying and recovering tags at the colony, and yearly weaner weighing (All work performed under NMFS permit #: 23188).

(Take a look at this video to see more of what goes on up at Año Nuevo State Park, note this video was shot prior to the COVID-19 pandemic)

The seals are finishing up their yearly molt and soon the adult females, many of whom are pregnant, will head out to sea for their long nine month migration out into the North Pacific. We will have a reprieve from field work until they return in December. Happy Trails!

Happy Holidays from the Vertebrate Ecology Lab!


With all vaccinated (and testing negative for Covid the day of), us at in the Vertebrate Ecology Lab here at MLML had our first in-person gathering in 2 years.

We got together for food, Danish present stealing games, rice pudding, and glogg. It was lots of fun unwrapping our stolen two-person "ugly" Christmas sweater, giant coffee mug, and all manner of ocean themed goodies.

We wish you all a safe and happy holiday season!