Oregon State University

Horning 2012-2013 Research Update

MMI - Pinniped Ecology Applied Research Laboratory (PEARL), Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station and Department of Fisheries and Wildlife

Markus Horning, Associate Professor

Graduate Students: Stephen Meck (M.S., Dept. Fisheries & Wildlife), Norma Vazquez (M.S., Dept. Fisheries & Wildlife), Sheanna Steingass (M.S., Dept. Fisheries & Wildlife), Undergraduate Student: Mee-ya Monnin (Dept. Fisheries & Wildlife)

 The Pinniped Ecology Applied Research Laboratory (PEARL) is dedicated to the study of ecology, behavioral physiology and conservation biology of pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walrus) in polar, temperate, and sub-tropical regions. Long-term PEARL research goals include the integration of diverse approaches to monitor and predict vital rates and population trends of pinnipeds in the North Pacific and polar regions.

  • From October through December 2012, PEARL successfully completed its second and last field season in Antarctica studying the Thermoregulation in free-living Antarctic seals: the missing link in effective ecological modeling through a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs. This study will fill a major knowledge gap by providing data essential to modeling all aspects of pinniped life history, in particular for ice seals. Through May 2014, we will be focusing on data analysis and manuscript preparations. This project is carried out in collaboration with Jo-Ann Mellish (University of Alaska Fairbanks) and Allyson Hindle (University of Colorado Denver). OSU project participants include M. Horning and OSU undergraduate student M. Monnin.
  • Building on the success of the first generation life-long implanted monitors for marine homeotherms (LHX tags), we are developing the next generation of LHX-2 devices, under National Science Foundation funding. This telemetry technology allows remote monitoring of pinnipeds throughout their entire lives to aid in classification of detected mortalities. LHX-2 development is conducted in collaboration with Wildlife Computers, Inc. (Redmond, WA), with the additional participation of Dr. John Parmigiani from the Computational Mechanics and Applied Design Laboratory (OSU School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering). Dr. William Hanshumaker (HMSC) is coordinating education and outreach efforts under this grant. These efforts include the development of a project specific website and curriculum elements by contractors Seymour Creative Communications and MarEPOsa. The website (www.sealtag.org) also presents a standards-based curriculum for school grades 6–12 with classroom activities that combine engineering principles and our biological research on Steller sea lions. OSU project participants include M. Horning, J. Parmigiani, and W. Hanshumaker.
  • In early 2013, the PEARL concluded the first phase of a long-term research project, The impact of predation on juvenile survival and population recovery of Steller sea lions in the Gulf of Alaska, (funded by the North Pacific Research Board and the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center. The first phase of this project was initiated in 2001 with the development of specialized, life-long electronic monitors to determine dates, locations and causes of mortality in juvenile Steller sea lions. Since 2005, 36 juvenile sea lions received these Life History Transmitters (LHX tags). Data returns from a subset of these sea lions showed a high incidence of predation on young sea lions in the Gulf of Alaska. Conducted in collaboration with the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, AK. OSU project participants include M. Horning, S. Meck and N. Vazquez.
  • Starting in 2013, we will initiate Phase 2 of this long-term project monitoring depredation and reproduction in Steller sea lions in the Gulf of Alaska, using 2nd generation LHX-2 tags currently being developed (funded by the North Pacific Research Board, the North Pacific Fisheries Foundation, and the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center).

PEARL student activities

  • PEARL graduate student Stephen Meck (M.S., Dept. Fisheries & Wildlife) successfully defended his thesis entitled “Range-use Estimation and Encounter Probability for Juvenile Steller Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the Prince William Sound-Kenai Fjords Region of Alaska” on March 21, 2013. Stephen received support from the HMSC Mamie Markham 1st Year Student Award and the North Pacific Research Board.
  • Two M.S. students in Fisheries & Wildlife — Norma Vazquez and Sheanna Steingass — have completed all classwork and are continuing on their respective research projects.
  • From July through December 2012, OSU undergraduate intern Mee-ya Monnin once again joined our Antarctic project. She spent her summer internship calibrating and preparing equipment and joined our Antarctic field team from October through December. Mee-ya is conducting an honors thesis entitled “A comparison of surface to volume ratios between pups and juveniles in the Antarctic Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii)”, using morphometric data she collected on Weddell seals during her internship.

Contact Info

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2030 SE Marine Science Drive
Newport, OR  97365
Tel:  541 867-0230
(at the Hatfield 
Marine Science Center)


2001 Marine Drive, Room 253
Astoria, OR  97103
503 325-4531
(at the Seafood Research 
& Education Center)