Coastal Habitats & Species—Telemetry Tales

Summary: Steller sea lions are disappearing from the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. In this topic guide, students practice using telemetry data from wild sea lions to try to learn more about what is going on with the species’ population.

Concepts to teach: Population ecology, telemetry, science inquiry

Goals: Students use telemetry data to offer evidence-based explanations for biological events.

Standards:
H.3S.3, H.3S.5

Specific Objectives:

  1. Identify how Steller sea lion populations have changed over recent decades.
  2. Use telemetry data to make conclusions about life history events of individual sea lions.
  3. Use telemetry data to explain one factor that may affect Steller sea lion population changes.
  4. Describe the advantages and limitations of using telemetry data to study sea lion ecology.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • The SealTag website from the Pinniped Ecology Applied Research Laboratory (PEARL) provides background on Steller sea lion population and ecology, engineering curriculum, and describes how scientists use telemetry tags to answer questions about sea lion population changes.
  • PEARL is based in the Marine Mammal Institute at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.
    • The HMSC Visitor Center features an exhibit about the internal telemetry tag being used on the Steller sea lions.
  • See Steller sea lions at the Oregon coast
    • Visit Sea Lion Caves near Florence to see a haul-out area for Steller sea lions.
      You can also usually see Steller sea lions by looking down at the beach from the pull-off area from the South-bound lane of Hwy 101 about 1/4 mile north of the Sea Lion Caves entrance.
    • Visit Simpson Reef Overlook on the Cape Arago Highway in Coos Bay to see a haul-out area for Steller sea lions.

Assessment:

  • Students use data to answer questions posed throughout the SealTag.org website:
    • What can a sea lion’s body temperature tell us?
    • What was the probable cause of Stella’s death?
    • What was the most common cause of mortality in the Steller sea lion telemetry study?
  • Describe both the advantages and limitations of using telemetry data to study sea lion ecology.