In any ecosystem, the presence of marine megafauna (marine mammals, seabirds, sharks, turtles) could be a major influence in system processes. While methods for population assessment have been active areas for scientific research, the relationship of marine megafauna to the composition and structure of their environment is an important concept for the advancement of scientific conservation and management knowledge. Could the presence of a whale, a seal, a seabird, or a shark be an indicator of ecosystem health, a keystone species that protects the diversity, resilience, and productivity of their communities, or a predator just passing through an area where similar processes would occur without their presence? There is increasing evidence of top-down, or cascading influences that are created by the influence of transient species in ecological communities. Long term studies with reliable baseline information are needed to chronicle and eventually predict these occurrences. Relationships with physical factors of the environment also structure a biotic community. For a complete picture of an ecologic system, local and regional influences of physical and hydrologic oceanographic phenomena must be studied from both a spatial and temporal viewpoint.
For further information, please email Dr. Ellen Hines. Please follow this link to our lab members. Click here for things to consider about joining us. You can join through the SFSU Geography Department or through the Romberg Tiburon Center RIPTIDES program.