Students present elephant seal research data at major conference

Sheridan Wilner ’19 and Luz Torres ’19 presented a research poster the weekend of November 18-19, 2017 in Pasadena at the annual meeting of the Western Society of Naturalists.

The poster focused on their work monitoring elephant seal breeding grounds in Point Reyes. This collaboration with the National Park Service (NPS) was part of a research methodology course led by faculty mentor and marine science educator Doreen Gurrola.

More than 500 people attended the conference, and the majority of research presented was conducted by graduate students. This was the third major conference at which the students have presented their findings.

Northern California storms in 2016 eroded beaches throughout the Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS), causing seals to seek out new breeding grounds. Even those new sites become hazardous, with high tides washing pups into the surf and overcrowded conditions further contributing to pup mortality.

Led by Gurrola, the small team of Luz, Sheridan and Megan Church ’19 focused on site fidelity by documenting the location of tagged adults and pups, and then comparing their findings to data collected in previous years by PRNS researchers. Their work is contributing to ongoing NPS studies.

•    Watch an NBC Bay Area news story about the students’ work.

The work began last spring in Gurrola’s Research Methodology course. All science majors at Dominican take a Research Methodology course, which prepares first-year students to hit the ground running when they become active participants in faculty research in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.


November 20, 2017