Los Farallones

Dispatches from Point Blue’s field station on the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

First Elephant Seal Pup & Team Introductions

Please welcome the winter 2020-21 Northern Elephant Seal research team!

Rhett Finley

Rhett received his B.S. in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University at Galveston. While in school a passion for the behavioral ecology and conservation of marine megafauna was fostered from his experiences with various marine mammal courses. He was also a beach interpreter for a local non-profit over the summer and a student technician in the Phytoplankton Dynamics Lab, where he analyzed the long-term trends of dissolved organic carbon in Galveston Bay leading to an additional interest in ecosystem dynamics. After graduating, he became a protected species observer in windfarm lease areas mitigating the effects of anthropogenic noise on vulnerable cetacean and sea turtle species. He then found himself halfway across the world spending a winter as a research assistant with the Dolphin Alliance Project in Shark Bay, WA assisting a graduate student with her study on the social development of juvenile male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. In his free time, you can find him scuba diving, caving, dabbling in nature photography or playing the ukulele. He is looking forward to diversifying his field experiences with the biodiverse island habitat of the Farallones!

Anna Pedersen

Anna received her B.S in Conservation & Resource Studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018. While in school she conducted research on tropical reef ecosystems in Panama, and spent time in the Caribbean where she crewed a sailboat while studying marine biology and oceanography. Since graduating, she has worked as a Marine Naturalist in French Polynesia and as a Marine Science Instructor in San Diego for an outdoor education program. She has a passion for working in the field and being out in remote spaces. While not working she loves to paint, surf and explore exciting places. This past year, she began working with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program and she is extremely excited to continue working with pinnipeds (as well as all the other species) out on the Farallones this season!

Mackenzie Cahill

Mackenzie graduated with a B.S. in Wildlife Management & Conservation from Humboldt State University in 2018. During his time in university, Mackenzie volunteered on several graduate research projects studying coastal invertebrates, snowy plovers, and local herpetofauna communities. After graduation he spent 3 months in Costa Rica tracking sloths with radio telemetry and collecting behavioral observation data. Following this internship he spent two field seasons working in the Everglades of Southern Florida where he gained lots of experience from capturing large invasive reptile species like pythons and tegus, to driving airboats and studying nesting success in wading bird colonies. Most recently he has been working on a large-scale invasive bullfrog removal project at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Washington. Mackenzie enjoys wildlife photography, drawing, bouldering, and exploring tidepools. He is incredibly excited to be working with the elephant seals and other pinnipeds found on the Farallones and hopes to continue to work with marine species in his career.

Sabrina Dahl

Sabrina graduated from Virginia Tech with a double bachelors in Wildlife Conservation and Marine Fisheries Conservation.  Sabrina finished her coursework for her Marine Fisheries Conservation B.S. at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State University.  While at Virginia Tech, Sabrina spent a summer as a research intern in Belize where she assisted with Jaguar Camera Tracking. Upon graduation in Fall 2019, she spent several winter months working as a fisheries observer onboard crabbing boats in the Bering Sea where her love for the ocean and conservation of its marine species was enhanced by the long hours working on deck at sea collecting data and observing the catch.  After leaving Alaska, she worked as a protected species observer along the east coast of the United States doing sea turtle nest and manatee monitoring. Sabrina is excited to learn more about marine mammal and seabird conservation while enhancing her research skills and experiencing the unique biodiversity of the Farallones.

Last and definitely not least: the first pup of the season!

Our first pup of the season was born on December 14th! This is the earliest first pup in the last 10 years and the third earliest pup in our entire 46 year dataset. The mother of this pup has been with us for at least the last 5 years but she is untagged. So how do we ID her? We are actually able to match photos of untagged cows between years using scar constellations on their bodies and a photo database system that we adapted from NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program. She has a diagnostic crescent shaped scar beneath her right eyebrow that we have been able to trace through the years. Using this photo database in conjunction with our daily data collection, we know this much about this year’s cow #1:

2020-21 – First cow to arrive and pup, the pup looks happy and healthy!

2019-20 – 14th to arrive and did not pup.

2018-19 – Second to arrive, pupped and weaned her pup successfully.

2017-18 – Seventh to arrive, but regrettably the pup did not make it.

2016-17 – Second to arrive, and weaned successfully.

Stay tuned for more elephant seal updates. The Farallon Island’s winter E-seal crew and the first pup of the year wish you a happy and healthy holiday season!