IAB Research Project Description

Harbor Seal Decline in the Glacier Bay Area: Assessing Factors Affecting Survival of an Imperiled Species

Harbor seal. Credit: Photo c: Tom Mangelsen

Any and all uses of these images must include photographer credit.

The Hoonah Indian Association has contracted with the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) to assist in assessing the health of harbor seal within the traditional territory of the Huna Tlingit.

The project objectives are:

1.Determine chemical composition of tissues of hunter killed seals taken outside the Park to assess chemical feeding ecology, and nutrient and contaminants levels that are important to seals and subsistence users.

2.Evaluate serum antibodies to specific disease agents (marine and canine morbilliviruses, Brucella spp., Leptospira spp., Avian Influence, Toxoplasma gondii), and detect and genotype select protozoa (e.g. Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia spp.) in feces of harbor seals in GLBA to asses potential for anthropogenic input (pollution).

3.Determine concentrations of biotoxins (e.g., harmful algal blooms), essential and non-essential elements (Hg, Se, Cd, Zn, Pb, Cu), organic nutrients, and organohalogen contaminants (e.g., chlorinated pesticides, PCBs, brominated flame retardants) in harbor seal tissues for assessing spatial and temporal trends and for comparison to stocks of other harbor seals along the west coast of North America.

4. Via thorough necropsy of subsistence-harvested seals and analytic data, develop clinical picture of “healthy” harbor seals and document any signs of stress or disease. Obtain additional biological samples that will increase the rigor of analysis and enhance the interpretation associated with diet, contaminants, population genetics, etc. conducted in the ongoing studies of factors contributing to the decline of seals in Glacier Bay. As these are professionally conducted necropsies samples will be collected for follow up analysis based on the initial findings and for AMMTAP.

Project Funding

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
31 Jul 2007 – 30 Nov 2009
IAB Proposal #08-020
UAF Grant #G4283
IAB Project #141

Media Contact

Marie Thoms
Communications/Web Manager
Institute of Arctic Biology
302A Irving I
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000
email: methoms@alaska.edu
phone: 907.474.7412