California Sea Lions
Liz just completed a field season deploying satellite tracking tags on juvenile animals at Año Nuevo Island. Read more about it here.
Luis is down in Antarctica working on a project studying Weddell seals. You can read more about it here.
Northern Elephant Seals
Vocal signaling plays an important role in the social interactions of many animals, and has the potential to
convey biologically relevant information to receivers, including motivational cues (such as level of arousal or willingness to fight), and individual characteristics (such as identity, size, group association, and dominance status). This can be especially important during reproductive activities, as vocal signaling often mediates interactions between breeding partners, competitive rivals, and mother-offspring pairs. The bioacoustics research project aims to understand how northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) use vocalizations to communicate biologically important information to one another during their annual breeding season. Specifically, we are examine how males use vocal cues to settle competitive interactions during high stakes competition over access to females during the breeding season. Male elephant seals establish dominance hierarchies during the winter breeding seasons. Competition between males is intense, with only a subset of individuals ever gaining access to breeding females. While dominance relationships are typically established through fighting, these hierarchies are maintained through the use of stereotypic threat displays that include vocalizations. These displays play an important role in settling otherwise costly interactions between competing males, as they often settles disputes between rivals without individuals having to engage in energetically costly fights. To explore the function of these special acoustic displays, we combine identification and marking, GPS re-sight data, behavioral observations, photometric analysis, playback experiments, and acoustic recording and analysis techniques to acquire detailed information about the behavioral and acoustic patterns exhibited by individual animals.