SEA Sentinels project – A collaborative, multi-disciplinary framework using seabirds and marine mammals as indicators in rapidly changing seas

Associate Prof. Mary-Anne Lea1, Dr Racheal  Alderman2, Prof. John Arnould3, Dr Cathy Bulman4, Dr  Andre Chiaradia5, Dr Peter Dann5, Prof.  Simon Goldsworthy6, Prof. Rob Harcourt7, Dr  Eric Woehler8, Dr Rebecca McIntosh5, Dr Alistair Hobday4

1IMAS, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 2Marine Conservation Group, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Hobart, Australia, 3Deakin University, Burwood, Australia, 4CSIRO Marine and Atmosphere, Hobart, Australia, 5Phillip Island Nature Parks, Cowes, Australia, 6SARDI, Adelaide, Australia, 7Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, 8Birdlife Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

South-eastern Australian seas are a marine biodiversity hot-spot and one of the most rapidly warming regions of the global oceans. This project proposes an innovative, multi-disciplinary and applied research approach using top-order marine vertebrates (seabirds and marine mammals) as ecosystem sentinels to better inform adaptive sustainable use management of our unique marine ecosystems. Marine vertebrates in this region contend with multiple cumulative stressors both on land and at sea, against a backdrop of warming and less predictable oceanic conditions. Key threats include large coastal human populations and coastal development, expanding marine industries, pathogens, predation, pollutants, marine debris, interactions with fisheries and changes in marine productivity associated with warming. This collaborative initiative draws on a network of marine vertebrate researchers and managers and takes a smart sentinel approach (emerging and cost-effective technologies) to enhance the limited long-term data series in the region. The primary goal of the SEA Sentinels project is to provide early-warning triggers for failing ecosystem health, so that the ecosystems and blue economies can be managed optimally into the future.


Mary-Anne Lea an Associate Professor at the Ecology and Biodiversity Centre at the Institute for Marine & Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. She is passionate about understanding the way in which the environment affects the behaviour, distribution and life history of marine vertebrates. She has studied the ecology of many species of seals and seabirds throughout the in temperate, Southern Ocean and Alaskan Waters and has participated in over 25 expeditions and voyages. Her research focuses on the way in which marine predators, especially migratory animals, interact with their environment at different temporal and spatial scales, and the fine-scale relationships between animal behaviour and prey dynamics. Much of her research has focused specifically on the influence of climate change and variability within the marine environment on top predator behaviour and distributions in the Southern Ocean. She is a member of the SCAR Expert Group of Birds and Marine Mammals, the IUCn Marine Migratory Connectivity Group and a keen advocate for equity.

Species on the Move

An International Conference Series

The conference brings together scientists and natural resource managers working in the disciplines of global change, biogeography and evolution, and relevant in contexts of natural resource management, biodiversity management and conservation, and theoretical ecology.

Species responses to climate change is a rapidly evolving research field, however, much of our progress is being made in independent research areas: e.g. understanding the process vs responding to the implications, terrestrial vs marine ecosystems, global meta-analyses vs in depth species-specific approaches. This interdisciplinary conference develops connections between these parallel streams, and across temporal and spatial scales.

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