We investigate the ecology, behavior and physiology of pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walrus). Pinniped stocks and population trends are analyzed in relation to predator-prey interactions, anthropogenic (man made) and natural variations in environmental conditions.
We focus on pinniped diving and foraging behavior in relation to reproductive strategies. Of particular interest are the effects of physiological constraints on behavioral plasticity, and how these influence the ability of pinnipeds to respond to environmental changes.
Our research is carried out in many locations in Oregon, California and Alaska, and as far away as Antarctica.
A key aspect of our work involves the development and application of innovative research approaches and new technologies to study animals that spend the majority of their life outside of our sphere of direct observation. Examples include infrared and 3D remote imaging, as well as development of life-long satellite transmitters to monitor health, condition and vital rates in inaccessible species such as the Steller sea lion in Alaska.
In a virtual field trip, “Southern Exposure,” viewers can join Dr. Markus Horning and his colleagues as they investigate how changing sea ice conditions may impact ice-dependent polar seals, like Antarctica's Weddell seals. The website was produced by the education department of the Alaska Sea Life Center and includes multiple videos, classroom activities, lesson plans, and associated material for school teachers.
In a new article in Terra magazine, Mee-ya Monnin talks about the trials and joys of working in the coldest place on earth. Mee-ya is working on her undergraduate honors thesis in Dr. Markus Horning's Pinniped Ecology Applied Research Lab.
After five hours on a 140-ton C-17 military aircraft that had taken off from Christchurch, New Zealand, Mee-ya Monnin, peering through one of the plane’s small circular windows, saw white ice covering the ocean. The members of her research team and military men on the plane with Monnin chuckled as she squealed and jumped up and down in her seat.
Read more about Monnin’s first season in Antarctica and follow her this fall as she returns at blogs.oregonstate.edu/hailingfrozenthoughts/.