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The Effect of Novel Research Activities on Long-term Survival of Temporarily Captive Steller Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus) Public Deposited

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  • Two novel research approaches were developed to facilitate controlled access to, and long-term monitoring of, juvenile Steller sea lions for periods longer than typically afforded by traditional fieldwork. The Transient Juvenile Steller sea lion Project at the Alaska SeaLife Center facilitated nutritional, physiological, and behavioral studies on the platform of temporary captivity. Temporarily captive sea lions (TJs, n = 35) were studied, and were intraperitoneally implanted with Life History Transmitters (LHX tags) to determine causes of mortality post-release. Our goal was to evaluate the potential for long-term impacts of temporary captivity and telemetry implants on the survival of study individuals. A simple open-population Cormack-Jolly-Seber mark-recapture model was built in program MARK, incorporating resightings of uniquely branded study individuals gathered by several contributing institutions. A priori models were developed to weigh the evidence of effects of experimental treatment on survival with covariates of sex, age, capture age, cohort, and age class. We compared survival of experimental treatment to a control group of n = 27 free-ranging animals (FRs) that were sampled during capture events and immediately released. Sex has previously been show to differentially affect juvenile survival in Steller sea lions. Therefore, sex was included in all models to account for unbalanced sex ratios within the experimental group. Considerable support was identified for the effects of sex, accounting for over 71% of total weight for all a priori models with delta AICc < 5, and over 91% of model weight after removal of pretending variables. Overall, most support was found for the most parsimonious model based on sex and excluding experimental treatment. Models including experimental treatment were not supported after post-hoc considerations of model selection criteria. However, given the limited sample size, alternate models including effects of experimental treatments remain possible and effects may yet become apparent in larger sample sizes.
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  • Shuert, C., Horning, M., & Mellish, J. A. (2015). The Effect of Novel Research Activities on Long-term Survival of Temporarily Captive Steller Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus). PLoS ONE, 10(11), e0141948. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141948
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  • 10
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  • 11
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  • This work was supported by funding over the last decade by the Alaska SeaLife Center (to JM www.alaskasealife.org), the National Marine Fisheries Service, the North Pacific Research Board (R1011 and R1310 to JM and MH), the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center (to JM and MH, https://www.sfos.uaf.edu/pcc/) and the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This work was also supported by 2014 Graduate Student Research Award (to CS, www.nprb.org).
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