FHL 492 | Summer B 2021

Ecology and Conservation of Marine Birds and Mammals 2021

Credits: 9

Instructor(s): W. Breck Tyler , Dr. Eric M. Anderson


This intensive, field-based course offers motivated students the opportunity to learn first-hand about the marine birds and mammals of the Salish Sea. Perched at the edge of the San Juan Channel, the Friday Harbor Labs are a great place to learn about these iconic animals and the conservation problems they face, as well as to develop the research skills needed to study them. We welcome applications from undergraduates, post-baccalaureates, and graduate students.

Photo: Phil Green

This course emphasizes hands-on learning and makes full use of FHL’s research boats and facilities. During the first half of the course, lectures, field trips, and lab demonstrations familiarize students with the local fauna, their habitats, and relevant research techniques. Specifically, students will learn: 1) the systematics, morphology, physiology, and ecology of local species; 2) field identification and research techniques for studies of populations, behavior, diet, energetics, and other topics; 3) relationship of tides and other environmental variables to animal distribution and abundance; and 4) the status and conservation of local species.

Photo: Phil Green

Recent studies have shown that populations of many marine birds and mammals are declining in the Salish Sea. Therefore, during the latter part of the course, participants conduct independent research on the ecology of local species and communities. Projects may cover a variety of topics and are designed to gather data pertinent to pressing conservation problems.

Working in small teams, students will design the project, collect and analyze field data, and then present their results and discuss your findings in a scientific-format paper and presentation. Examples of recent projects include: effects of tidal currents on Harbor Seal haul-out patterns; effects of boat disturbance on marine bird behavior; prey availability and selection of Black Oystercatchers; inter-annual variation in abundance and distribution of auklets, seals, and porpoises; and feeding behavior of Great Blue Herons. Student projects are added to a growing database for the San Juan Island region now being developed by FHL courses and researchers. Students’ data will help us monitor the status of local species and contribute to future conservation actions.

Instructors for this course are:

  • W. Breck Tyler, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz: Long Marine Laboratory
  • Dr. Eric M. Anderson, Ecological Restoration Program, British Columbia Institute of Technology

Enrollment is limited to 20 students. No textbook is required for this course.
For more information, contact Breck Tyler: ospr@ucsc.edu