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Investigating Infectious Pathogens that Are Killing Sea Lion Pups

In early 2013, more than 1,200 sea lions died suddenly and for unknown reasons. Most were pups that were thin and dehydrated. With a grant from Morris Animal Foundation, researchers at the National Marine Mammal Foundation are investigating potential causes of or contributors to sea lion illness. In particular, they will target infectious diseases. The study team is evaluating microscopic lesions in tissues of sea lions that were stranded and died in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego counties. They will also test samples taken from sea lions to compare them with a targeted list of infectious diseases that affect marine mammals. Results from this research will help guide the next steps of this large-scale investigation into this unusual mortality event.

This grant is made possible through the Foundation’s Betty White Wildlife Rapid Response Fund, which provides wildlife researchers with timely monetary aid to respond to unexpected events that result in an immediate need for animal health research.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson, National Marine Mammal Foundation

Study ID: D14ZO-706