Science Spotlight

The resident Steller sea lion breeding program at the Alaska SeaLife Center is a multifaceted research project designed to investigate the reproductive physiology of female Steller sea lions and track offspring growth and development.  Studies, as bulleted below, focused on developing methodologies for identifying key events in the reproductive season (i.e. estrus, implantation, and pregnancy).  Data collection on these studies has predominantly been completed and is currently being analyzed and documented to share with the public and scientific community.

1. Quantify and track changes in estrogen and progesterone in serum and fecal samples from pregnant and non-pregnant female Steller sea lions.  Estrogen is a key reproductive hormone associated with a female’s sexual receptivity during the breeding season and progesterone is important to maintaining a viable pregnancy.  Understanding these fluctuations with seasons and pregnancy will aid researchers studying the population dynamics of wild Steller sea lions. 

2. Quantify and track cellular changes from vaginal swabs to identify estrus.  If successful this could be a tool utilized in captive facilities to time introducing females and males to optimize successful breeding events. 

3. Assess the relationship between blood health parameters and body conditions as measured by blubber depth and D20 (a method of calculating body composition from water and lipid content) over seasons and with pregnancy. 

4. Track changes in body condition, size, cranial and dental growth in Steller sea lion offspring from the resident breeding program in effort to develop a growth curve to estimate age in Steller sea lions < 2 years old in the wild.





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