Cooperative Research Units
Education, Research And Technical Assistance For Managing Our Natural Resources
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Environmental Effect on Harbor Seal Movement & Resource Selection


January 2010 - June 2017


Problem statement:

Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardsi) are found throughout the coastal waters of southern Alaska. Seal numbers have shown declines of 80%-90% in past decades (Pitcher 1990). Understanding how the environment motivates harbor seal resource selection and behavior is a critical step toward understanding the precipitous decline of the species and managing the species toward recovery.

So What? Why this research matters:

The ability to formally make inferences about large-scale spatial and temporal movement of harbor seals helps us understand the natural history of the species and rigorously quantifies their space use and behavior.


This project was in collaboration with scientists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Research That Informs Decisions:

We are developing a flexible approach for investigating the effects of a dynamic environment on harbor seal movement and resource selection. This approach accounts for the irregular temporal resolution of the location data and allows us to address scientific questions that may provide insights into environmental drivers of harbor seal behavior to better manage the species.

Research Products and Activities

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Brost, B.M., M.B. Hooten, and R.J. Small. (In Review). Quantifying patterns in harbor seal haul-out use from biotelemetry data. Journal of Applied Ecology.
  • Brost, B.M., M.B. Hooten, E.M. Hanks, and R.J. Small. (2015). Animal movement constraints improve resource selection inference in the presence of telemetry error. Ecology, 96: 2590-2597.
  • Brost, B.M., M.B. Hooten, and R.J. Small. (2017). Leveraging constraints and biotelemetry data to pinpoint repetitively used spatial features. Ecology, 98: 12-20.

Current Staff

Federal Staff: 99

Masters Students: 225

Phd Students: 143

Post Docs: 53

University Staff: 247

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 658

Scientific Publications: 1872

Presentations: 4186



Funding Agencies

  • Alaska Dept of Fish & Game


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey