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 Revision). Model-based clustering reveals patterns in central place use of a marine top predator. Ecosphere.
  • 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: 3

Masters Students: 5

Phd Students: 5

Post Docs: 1

University Staff: 2

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 16

Scientific Publications: 82

Presentations: 91



Funding Agencies

  • Alaska Dept of Fish & Game


Colorado Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Cooperators

  1. Colorado Parks and Wildlife
  2. Colorado State University
  3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  4. U.S. Geological Survey
  5. Wildlife Management Institute