Using alternative diet analysis methods for studying gray seal foraging ecology on Cape Cod
Keith M. Hernandez, Louisiana State University, 2016-Present
Doctoral dissertation on the foraging ecology of gray seals
Keith is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at Louisiana State University. He is being supervised by NASRC collaborator Dr. Michael Polito for his research examining the foraging ecology of gray seals using stable isotope and DNA barcoding analyses. The increasing seal population along Cape Cod has reignited concerns about the potential impact seals have on fisheries species, however, previous diet research on gray seals is extremely limited in US waters. Additionally, these studies relied on the identification of prey hard parts from scat samples, which is known to have several limitations. The methods Keith is using are able to circumvent the limitations of hard parts analysis and expand the kinds of questions we can ask about gray seal foraging ecology.
NASRC has been a critical collaborator on Keith’s research since the project began, including providing samples and data, suggesting funding opportunities and facilitating collaborations with other researchers around Cape Cod. Members of the NASRC community are also coauthors on several of the publications he is working on as part of his dissertation.