Research

My ongoing research is at the Falkland Islands. I am currently exploring the ecology of southern sea lions and South American fur seals to understand the processes governing past changes in population abundance, and the ecological, genetic and conservation consequences of historical population crashes. My research also examines how individual specialization influences offspring survival, competition between the sexes, and juvenile dispersal.

I am always looking to develop new collaborative projects, so please do get in touch.

 

(1) Disentangling the decline of southern sea lion lions and impediments to population recovery

Falklands Sea Lions

South American sea lions were once prolific in the Southwest Atlantic ecosystem, with an estimated population of well over 1 million. The population suffered a catastrophic decline between the 1930s and 1960s. One of the largest declines occurred at the Falklands Islands (South Atlantic), where the population plummeted from 380,000 individuals in the 1930s to less than 30,000 in the 1960s. Commercial sealing is often cited as the cause of the decline. Yet, despite the cessation of commercial sealing over 60 years ago, the sea lion population has not recovered and in 2014 was less than 6 % of the 1930s population estimate. My research challenges the notion that commercial sealing caused the decline, and suggests that other factors such as environmental change, were likely to have contributed to the decline. Accordingly my efforts are now shifting toward understanding changes in ocean climate around the Falkland Islands and changes in the trophic ecology of sea lions (from the 1900s to today). Understanding whether past changes in ocean climate have influenced sea lion abundance and distribution may help to improve the efficiency of contemporary conservation measures and enable more accurate predictions of population change in the face of an increasingly stochastic environment.

Impediments to population recovery coming soon…..

 

(2) Population genetics of southern sea lions and South American fur seals

South American fur sealsIn collaboration with colleagues from Bielefeld University (Joe Hoffman and Gabriele Kowalski), we have compiled the most comprehensive dataset on southern sea lion population genetics to (i) determine the population structure of sea lions breeding at the Falklands, (ii) test for evidence of a genetic bottleneck and whether this has impeded population recovery, and, (iii) elucidate migration rates. Our manuscript is currently in review (as of Feb 2016).

Fur seal genetics coming soon…….

 

(3) Foraging ecology of southern sea lions and South American fur seals

IMG_2472 Coming soon…..but in the meantime, a recent publication on adult female southern sea lion foraging ecology is available here.

 

 

 


Recent collaborators

In alphabetical order

 

Prof John Arnould, Deakin University, Australia

Dr Paul Brickle, SAERI, Falkland Islands

Dr Bob Brownell, NOAA, USA

Prof Dan Costa, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA

Prof Rob Harcourt, Macquarie University, Australia

Dr Joe Hoffman, Bielefeld University, Germany

Dr Luis Huckstadt, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA

Dr Larissa de Oliveria, UNISINOS, Brazil

Dr Rachael Orben, Oregon State University, USA

Dr Pierre Pistorius, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa

Dr Norman Ratcliffe, British Antarctic Survey, UK

Dr Iain Staniland, British Antarctic Survey, UK