Sarah Stachura Kienle


Ph.D. Student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz

M.S., Biology, San Diego State University, California

B.S., Biology and History, Trinity University, Texas

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ResearchGate Profile, Website


Research Interests

I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz in Dr. Daniel Costa and Dr. Rita Mehta’s labs. I am broadly interested in the ecology, behavior, and conservation of marine mammals. Marine mammals can provide critical information on foraging hotspots, changes to food web structures, abundance and distribution of prey resources, and habitat alterations. My thesis project will examine the foraging ecology and habitat use of adult northern elephant seals from multiple breeding colonies along the species range. Northern elephant seals are important and abundant marine predators in coastal and mesopelagic ecosystems in the North Pacific Ocean. Northern elephant seals undergo one of the longest foraging trips of any marine mammal, traveling from breeding colonies along the coast of North America and Mexico to foraging habitats in the North Pacific Ocean.

My thesis project will allow examine variability in foraging behavior in this species, and this research will provide insights into how individuals and populations will be differentially affected by climate change across the species range. The results of this project will likely identify crucial foraging hotspots for adult northern elephant seals and characterize oceanographic features that drive foraging intensity. As ocean ecosystems continue to change dramatically, these results will be timely in their potential to predict the impact of changing abiotic factors on the foraging ecology of northern elephant seals—information that is vital for the management and protection of the species.

I earned my B.S. in biology and history from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. As an undergraduate I had a variety of research experiences, from studying bacterial mats in caves in New Mexico to looking at marine herbivore-plant interactions in South Carolina. After receiving my B.S., I taught middle school and high school biology for three years in south Texas as part of Teach For America. I then returned to academia and earned my M.S. degree in biology from San Diego State University in Dr. Annalisa Berta’s lab. My M.S. thesis was an investigation of the foraging strategies and evolution of feeding behaviors in extant and extinct phocid seals.

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