Protecting species requires an understanding of their population biology and their ecology. Field studies by the Conservation Research program focus on the relationships between species of concern and their physical and living environments. Insights into those relationships inform assessments of habitat needs, threats to the populations, as well as the impact of species on the ecosystems of which they are a part.
Ecology of Sharks
Sharks inhabit diverse marine habitats and, at present, our ecological research is focused on white sharks, which range broadly across the North Pacific as well as other oceans. With our research partners, we are tracking white sharks using satellite tags equipped with computers that collect and store data on temperature, depth, and sunrise and sunset times (used to estimate position).
Past tracking has shown that white sharks inhabit our coastal waters in fall and winter and then move out to a specific region of the North Pacific in spring. That region (dubbed the "white shark café") presumably is the site of mating, but how the sharks actually use the region is unknown. To determine the sharks' behavior in the café, we are teaming with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to develop a smart tag that uses accelerometers and gyroscopes to record details of swimming motion and speed. Those data will produce a record of behavior and trigger a video camera designed to record images only while sharks are in the café.
Ecology of Bluefin Tuna
A fundamental of ecology is understanding the movements and range of species. Research teams with the Tuna Research and Conservation Center (TRCC) track at-sea movements of tuna with satellite-linked transmitters. The range and seasonal movements of the tuna provide important information for assessing the impacts of fisheries across the North Pacific Ocean.
At the TRCC, scientists use a respirometer to study the metabolic rate of tunas under controlled conditions, providing information on how efficiently they swim at different speeds and temperatures.
Ecology of Sea Otters
New research has documented the significant role that sea otters play in restoring the health of important coastal ecosystems, from kelp forests to estuaries. The Aquarium research team collaborates with scientists from government agencies and universities to understand how the presence of sea otters increases biodiversity and the overall health of coastal ecosystems.