How and why is the timing and occurrence of seasonal migrants in the Gulf of Maine changing due to climate?

Fiscal Year: 
Project Leader: 
Research Partners: 
Daniel Pendleton (John H Prescott Marine Laboratory, New England Aquarium, Central Wharf, Boston, MA)
Science Themes: 

Shifts in phenology, or the timing of recurring life events, have been described as a “fingerprint” of temporal and spatial responses by biodiversity to climate change impacts. Thus phenology provides one of the strongest indicators of the adaptive capacity of organisms to cope with future environmental conditions. In this study we will investigate how the timing and occurrence of a suite of highly migratory marine animals is changing due to a series of climatic and ecological drivers. Using existing long-term historical data series, we will determine the direction and magnitude of how migration, abundance, or other phenological indicator has changed in a suite of marine mammals, sea turtles and fishes that migrate into the Gulf of Maine on a seasonal basis. Because marine animals are inherently cryptic and imperfectly detected, we will apply novel statistical approaches, namely dynamic occupancy models, to evaluate seasonal migration patterns and habitat use across multiple habitats in the Gulf of Maine region. Lastly, we will synthesize regional information on a key prey species, sandlance, whose timing and abundance is a strong predictor of the occurrence and behavior of predators targeted in this study.  Results will identify species that are relatively more or less adaptive and thus vulnerable to climate change, determine the likely primary drivers of those changes, as well as data gaps and future monitoring needs. Ultimately, this information will be useful to inform regional management and adaptation plans.

  • D. Pendleton presented plans and research complete date at the NE CASC Regional Science Meeting Incorporating Climate Science in the Management, May 15-17, 2017.
  • D. Pendleton plans to present at the 2017 Right Whale Consortium meeting, October 2017.
  • D. Pendleton plans to present at the Society for Marine Mammalogy Biennial conference, October, 2017.
  • D. Pendleton will present at the American Museum of Natural History in the Fall of 2017.
  • Michelle Staudinger, "The ecological role of sand lance in the Gulf of Maine through a climate change lens" at the Sand Lance in the Northeast Workshop Parker River NWR, Newburyport MA. May 8 & 9th, 2017 
  • Mila Calandrino (Umass) presented her honors thesis "Environmental and ecological factors affecting gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) and harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) haul-out behavior on Duck Island, ME" at the Umass Undergraduate Research Conference. April 28, 2017.
  • On July 18 we held a one-day meeting at the New England Aquarium (NEAq) to discuss NOAA seal stranding data and Shoals Marine Lab harbor and grey seal data. Kate Jones presented her work on seal stranding data and Gabrielle Calandrino presented her work on SML seal data.
  • On September 29, D. Pendleton participated in the New York regional Species Distribution Modeling group meeting at the American Museum of Natural History. He met with Morgan Tingley of the University of Connecticut and worked through the details of the [then] current occupancy model.
  • Kate Jones, Greater Atlantic Region Stranding Conference (GARSCON), Hull, MA. October 10-13, 2017
  • Daniel Pendleton "Tracking phenological changes for North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of Maine using multi-season occupancy models" Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Halifax, Nova Scotia. October 23-27, 2017
  • Daniel Pendleton “Changing distributions of large whales: How climate, oceanography and biology influence movement of the largest animals on Earth” New England Aquarium IMAX theater, Lowell Lecture Series. November 8, 2017
  • Daniel Pendleton "Changing distributions of large whales: How climate, oceanography and biology influence movement of the largest animals on Earth Location: New England Aquarium – Brown bag lecture series" January 25, 2018.
  • Staudinger, M., D. Pendleton, and A. Jordaan. "Climate-induced shifts in phenology: Case studies of fish, whales, and seabirds in the Gulf of Maine." The Effects of Climate Change on the World's Oceans, Session 8 -Understanding the impact of Abrupt Ocean Warming and Continental Scale Connections on marine productivity and food security via Western Boundary Currents. Washington DC. June 2018
  • Michelle Staudinger was invited to participate as a member of an Expert Working Group for NOAA’s Protected Species Climate Vulnerability Assessment that has developed assessment criteria and attributes for assessing 90 marine mammal stocks located in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico as well as all global sea turtle populations.
  • As a result of Mendy Garron's participation in our seal meeting at NEAq in July, and her ongoing involvement in our project, we are better able to focus our seal stranding research on issues that will improve NOAA's to response to seal stranding events.
  • Michelle attended the Roseate Tern Recovery Working group meeting in November 2017 and provided updates on the sandlance working group activities and lead a discusion on formalizing a broader forage fish working group that spanned ROST and AMBC.
  • On December 20 our team (M. Stuadinger, D. Pendleton, C. Sutherland) hosted a conference call with staff at the NOAA Greater Atlantic Region Office and at NOAA headquarters. NOAA is interested in our efforts to estimate habitat use and measure potential risk to right whales by human activities. We discussed areas where we could collaborate, including having NOAA provide data on ship traffic and fishing activities. NOAA staff present: Diane Borggaard, Dan Linden, Peter Kelliher, Jeff Adams.
  • Maps of habitat use are in development and will be produced as the last step in the habitat modeling process. 2-page communication product on sandlance syntehsis compelted and USGS FSP approved.
  • National Wildlife Magazine will be writing a story on the sandlance workshop and working group activities for the summer 2018 issue.
  • Work Citated in "A Regional Analysis of Long-Term Gray and Harbor Seal Stranding Events", 2018 
  • Work Citated in "A Review of Literature for Gray and Harbor Seal", 2018