Here is a little Q&A I put together for Dash that some of you may find interesting;
I grew up on the coast of Maine and have just always been fascinated by the water. It has a completely calming effect on me and I am so fascinated by the fact that it is so vast and there is so much going on under the water, and yet all we see is the surface.
Why Marine Biology?
Because I love the ocean so much, I also recognize that it is in great danger. We over fish, destroy habitat and put many pressures on marine mammals that make it hard for species’ to survive. The ocean ecosystems are very fragile and it is one of the most important habitats on earth. Not only does it support a huge percentage of life on this planet, the ocean also provides more than 75% of the oxygen we breath through microscopic algaes. Incredible! I just want to help save this amazing habitat and all it’s residents.
What is the craziest thing that’s happened to you while studying seals?
Oh geeze. I was out on an Island off the coast of Massachusetts for two weeks in the middle of January with no electricity or running water. We were studying the breeding behavior of grey seals. THEN, within a day or two of getting there, I was digging in the sand to sink our blind and ended up getting poison ivy ALL over my neck and face. It was so awful!!
Monk seals are considered living fossils. This means that they have evolved so little from their ancestors 15 million years ago that they are considered the same species. They have been in Hawaii for 10 million years. Humans hunted them to near extinction in the 1800’s and they have never been able to rebound. They are a really important part of the ecosystem because they are top predators and help keep all the other fish populations in check.
Do they have families or mate for life?
Monk seals are actually quite solitary seals, which is how they got their name! They do not really have families, but do gather on beaches in big colonies each year to mate and have pups!
How long do the babies stay with their mothers?
How do they affect Hawaii?
Monk seals are very important the ecosystem (see above). They also are beautiful creatures that contribute to the natural history of Hawaii and promote eco-friendly tourism for seal watches.
What is the biggest challenge for the Monk Seal at the moment? How can you help change that?
The biggest challenge for the monk seal is that less than 1 in 5 pups actually survive to adult hood. This is mainly thought to be due to pups dying of starvation. There is one small population in the Main Hawaiian Islands, however, that is increasing, which means the pups are surviving. We are going to study the diet of the seals in the MHI with very sensitive methods to get a clear idea of diet and hope that information helps us make important management decisions on how to help save this species!
How did NGE reach out to you or did you apply for this program?
Nat Geo Channel reached out to me! I got a Young Explorers Grant in grad school through the Nat Geo Missions program that I applied for in a very competitive process. This time, Nat Geo Channel was looking for two previous Young Explorer Grantees to compete for another funding opportunity and they like what I do, so they picked me!
Tell us a little about being a NGYE (National Geographic Young Explorer).
Being a NGYE is a dream come true! It is what every science/conservation oriented kid dreams of, I think…. Being part of National Geographic, an incredible organization that is out there trying to make a difference in the world we live in. I feel SO honored that such a wonderful organization thinks what I am doing is important and is supporting me in my career and conservation goals.