Watching Walrus

Project Description

The Pacific walrus (PW) is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act due to reductions in sea ice habitat resulting from climate change. Summer sea ice is recognized as a potentially critical habitat that PW rely upon for resting, foraging, and reproductive activities. PW rely on both land and sea-ice as haulout substrate. Male PW are commonly found on summer terrestrial haulouts, while females and calves primarily rely on sea-ice because it offers protection from predators and provides access to foraging areas. During 2007, female PW with young calves made a notable move to utilize Alaskan terrestrial haulouts, coinciding with low summer ice. In 2008, increased summer ice cover was available so PW remained offshore, however they again made landfall in 2009, coincident with low summer ice extent. As summer sea-ice continues to retreat, land haulouts are expected to become even more critical to support all segments of the PW population. This study monitors historic and newly established PW terrestrial haulout sites using serial images from still cameras to record walrus attendance, duration, and level of disturbance at the haulout sites. The study address several needed areas and create a critical data set for scientists, government agencies, and native interests. Further, our haulout photographs may be valuable to those who are attempting to ascertain numbers at haulouts, duration of use, and when animals move between sites.

Research Team

Principal Investigator

picture of Lori Polasek

Lori Polasek

Research Assistant Professor
Specialties:
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
lkpolasek@alaska.edu
(907)224-6893
Full Profile

Project Funding

Alaska Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund
Amount: $300,000
Start Date: 2012-01-00 End Date: 2016-12-00

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