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Harbor seal

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Brown pelican

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Green turtle hatchling


Under the guidance of Dr. Birgitte (Gitte) I. McDonald, graduate students in the Vertebrate Ecology Lab study the physiology, behavior and ecology of marine mammals, birds and turtles. Moss Landing Marine Lab’s proximity to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve provides a wealth of pelagic, near-shore, and estuarine species and habitats for local study.  Current and former Vertebrate Ecology Lab students have conducted their graduate research both locally and throughout the world, including the Pribilof Islands of Alaska, the San Juan Islands of Washington, the Channel Islands of southern California, the Hawaiian Islands, Mexico, Australia, Costa Rica, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Vertebrate Ecology Lab is also a member of the nation-wide Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Network, sharing responsibility for strandings on the Monterey County coastline with The Marine Mammal Center and the Monterey County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). If you see a dead marine mammal in Monterey County please call 831-771-4422.