Marine Mammal Stranding Program

Mentor & Lab: Juli Limon and Maia Smith- Dunkin Lab (LML Stranding Network)

Positions: 2 interns

Tentative dates: July -August 2024

Project Location: Coastal Science Campus/local beaches in Santa Cruz County

Project Background: The Long Marine Lab Marine Mammal Stranding Program at UCSC responds to and collects data from all dead stranded marine mammals in Santa Cruz county. Part of our work involves monthly surveys of local area beaches in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties for marine mammal carcasses as well as marine debris. We conduct these surveys with the help of a group of undergraduates participating in an early career, mentored research experience called Survey Slugs. Our lab works in these three areas: marine mammal strandings, marine debris, and STEM education with a joint mission of involving undergraduates in work that helps contribute to health monitoring of marine mammal populations, understanding patterns and causes of marine debris, and in supporting students to fully realize their career goals in STEM.

Interns in our lab would participate in all stranding related activities including Survey Slugs, lab meetings, necropsies, and other activities during the summer of 2024. Interns can select from projects in any of our focus areas and could investigate questions related to domoic acid levels in stranded marine mammals, evaluation of our Survey Slug program from a STEM education perspective, investigate geographic or temporal patterns of marine debris or develop novel questions of their own interest in these areas. Projects will be based on an extensive longitudinal data set previously collected and could also include data collected specifically for their own project during this experience.

Intern duties: Be on call for strandings during the period of the internship, participate in all beach surveys, attend lab meetings and necropsies, work with our stranding techs on day to day work of the stranding program, collect data as needed for the project, and help organize and manage survey slug program with our stranding technicians.

Intern qualifications: Some knowledge about marine mammals would be helpful (such as having taken the biology of marine mammals) but it not required. Interns will be spending considerable time on the beach and should feel comfortable working with a team. Interns will be handling dead animals and should keep this in mind in considering this project. The most important qualities for success in our program is motivation to learn, a growth mindset, and a willingness to jump in and help wherever and whenever it is needed. About 50% of this work will be outside and the rest will be in the office or lab. We adhere to all UCSC COVID guidance.

Do you recommend the intern(s) volunteer in your lab during Spring quarter?


UC Santa Cruz Land Acknowledgement

The land from which we base our work is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.