Honours student to help Galapagos sea lions

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Honours student to help Galapagos sea lions

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Published on 20 June 2012

20 June 2012

A University of the Sunshine Coast Honours student will spend six months researching climate change in the Galapagos Islands to help save its declining sea lion population.

Mick Dan, 30, of Mudjimba, graduated last year with a USC Bachelor of Environmental Science and has chosen the Galapagos sea lions as his USC Honours project this year. He leaves on 25 June and will stay until Christmas.

He is pleased to have received a $4,000 grant from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility to support his studies, as well as additional funding from USC’s Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering and the USC International Office.

“I first went to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador as an exchange student with the International Office’s GO (Global Opportunities) Program in 2010,” Mr Dan said.

“I’ve been travelling for 10 years to places like India, Nepal, China and Korea. I’m interested in conservation and ecology and how we can best prepare our species and environment for climate change.”

He studied at the University of San Francisco’s de Quito campus in Ecuador and his Honours project this year will be supervised by one of their academics, Dr Judith Denkinger, along with USC’s Dr Neil Tindale, Professor Richard Warrick and Dr Sheila Peake.

“Sea lions are top of the food chain so they will feel the effects of climate change as the water becomes too warm for their food,” Mr Dan said. “Fifty per cent of the Galapagos pups died during El Nino last year. They need help.”

Mr Dan, who also teaches science and chemistry at USC, will assess climate change model predictions in the Galapagos region and develop “vulnerability maps” correlating to the sea lion breeding populations.

“I’ll examine what climate variables are associated with sea lion abundance and vulnerability in regard to disease, fishing and tourism,” he said.

Julie Schomberg

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