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TEC Flag #82 Field Expeditions 2020/21

By Brent S Stewart, Ph.D., J.D. FN 91

I had fewer field research expeditions in the past year than usual and they were all closer to home than in most years.

In October and early November 2020 I traveled to La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico to continue studies of the ecology of whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez. This was a resumption of tagging studies that I initiated in Bahia de Los Angeles in 1994 with TEC Flag #72. This time I was able to tag 13 whale sharks then with satellite-linked radio transmitters to supplement the three sharks that I was able to tag there in June 2019, and I am now deep in analyses of the results of their movements and diving behaviors. In mid-September I traveled to Loreto, B.C.S., to scout out new whale shark research options while visiting with TEC member Marla Daily FN'08.

From January through early September 2021, I made six research expeditions to the Southern California Channel Islands (San Miguel, San Nicolas and Santa Cruz islands) to continue long-term research on the ecology, behavior, and demography of northern elephant seals, California sea lions, harbor seals, and northern fur seals (Photo right: Dr. Brent S. Stewart with colleagues at Campo del Norte on Santa Cruz Island investigating the incipient colony of northern elephant seals). Remarkably, populations of all of those species have been steadily increasing during the past several decades.

In July I traveled to St. Paul Island to continue collaborative studies with NOAA colleagues on the status of the northern fur seal population there, which continues to steadily decline, for yet unknown reasons.

(Photo left: Dr. Brent S. Stewart with NOAA colleague Dr. John Bengtson at St. Paul Island conducting research on the population on northern fur seals). Marla Daily FN’08 joined me there for several days to engage in anthropological discussions with residents of the Aleut (Anangan) community about the potential relationship of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island (Juana Maria) to Anangan ancestors from the Aleutian Islands.

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