“In Philadelphia, you've got squirrels. In Galapagos, you have sea lions,” said Deena Weisberg, PhD, assistant professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Her recent research efforts include the study of Galapagos sea lions and their reactivity to human disturbance on beaches. The study is forthcoming in the journal, Wildlife Biology.
If you frequent popular beaches, you are familiar with the high amount of activity and commotion that occurs. In the Galapagos, these popular beach destinations are shared by sea lions, Weisberg and her team of researchers see this as a potential stressor to sea lions, one that could have negative effects on their wellbeing.
In this study, sea lion behavior was observed over two, seven-month time spans. “In the observational period you're looking at gender, age, and how closely the sea lions are grouped. You’re watching who is calling to whom, or who is nursing their young, or other behaviors that they're engaged in,” said Weisberg.
Weisberg co-led this project as a collaborative effort between faculty from other universities and the local Galapagos community. To collect the observations on the sea lions, the US-based researchers relied on International Baccalaureate students at the UAE-San Cristóbal School. These students participated in a community science effort called Project LAVA (Laboratorio Para Apreciar La Vide y El Ambiente), an initiative led by the Galápagos Education and Research Alliance, which is co-directed by Weisberg.