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Kristin Laidre

Principal Oceanographer

Assistant Professor, Fisheries





Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center

Kristin Laidre's Website



2000-present and while at APL-UW

Identifying shifts in maternity den phenology and habitat characteristics of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in Baffin Bay and Kane Basin

Escajeda, E., K.L. Laidre, E.W. Born, Ø. Wiig, S. Atkinson, M. Dyck, S.H. Ferguson, and N.J. Lunn, "Identifying shifts in maternity den phenology and habitat characteristics of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in Baffin Bay and Kane Basin," Polar Biol., 41, 87-100, doi:10.1007/s00300-017-2172-6, 2017.

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1 Jan 2018

The phenology and habitat selection of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) maternity dens may shift over time in response to changing environmental conditions. We compared maternity den phenology and habitat characteristics using satellite telemetry data from adult female polar bears from the Baffin Bay (BB) (n = 16 dens; 2009–2015) and Kane Basin (KB) subpopulations (n = 3 dens; 2012–2015) to previously published maternity den data from 1991 to 1997 (BB n = 8 dens; KB n = 3 dens). BB maternity denning duration decreased from a mean of 194.1 days (SD = 21.0 days, n = 8) in the 1990s, to a mean of 167.1 days (SD = 27.6 days, n = 16; p = 0.017) in the 2000s. Delayed den entry accounted for shorter denning durations (1990s entry date x = 7 September; 2000s entry date x = 5 October; p = 0.018). For dens habitat characteristics of which could be measured, BB maternity dens in the 2000s occurred at higher elevations (x = 707.0 m, SD = 284.9 m, n = 15; p = 0.003) and greater slopes (x = 23.1°, SD = 7.4°; p = 0.003) than the 1990s (elevation x ± SD = 351.3 ± 194.5 m, n = 8; slope x ± SD = 11.9 ± 6.4±). Aspect also significantly differed between the 1990s (x = 51.3±) and 2000s BB maternity dens (x = 199.7±; Watson’s U2p = 0.042). KB dens were not statistically compared due to low sample size (n = 3 dens in both periods). Shifts in sea ice phenology and snow availability may explain the observed changes.

Projecting marine mammal distribution in a changing climate

Silber, G.K., and 24 others, including K.L. Laidre and K.M. Stafford, "Projecting marine mammal distribution in a changing climate," Front. Mar. Sci., 4, 413, doi:10.3389/fmars.2017.00413, 2017.

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20 Dec 2017

Climate-related shifts in marine mammal range and distribution have been observed in some populations; however, the nature and magnitude of future responses are uncertain in novel environments projected under climate change. This poses a challenge for agencies charged with management and conservation of these species. Specialized diets, restricted ranges, or reliance on specific substrates or sites (e.g., for pupping) make many marine mammal populations particularly vulnerable to climate change. High-latitude, predominantly ice-obligate, species have experienced some of the largest changes in habitat and distribution and these are expected to continue. Efforts to predict and project marine mammal distributions to date have emphasized data-driven statistical habitat models. These have proven successful for short time-scale (e.g., seasonal) management activities, but confidence that such relationships will hold for multi-decade projections and novel environments is limited. Recent advances in mechanistic modeling of marine mammals (i.e., models that rely on robust physiological and ecological principles expected to hold under climate change) may address this limitation. The success of such approaches rests on continued advances in marine mammal ecology, behavior, and physiology together with improved regional climate projections. The broad scope of this challenge suggests initial priorities be placed on vulnerable species or populations (those already experiencing declines or projected to undergo ecological shifts resulting from climate changes that are consistent across climate projections) and species or populations for which ample data already exist (with the hope that these may inform climate change sensitivities in less well observed species or populations elsewhere). The sustained monitoring networks, novel observations, and modeling advances required to more confidently project marine mammal distributions in a changing climate will ultimately benefit management decisions across time-scales, further promoting the resilience of marine mammal populations.

The commercial harvest of ice-associated seals in the Sea of Okhotsk, 1972-1994

Trukhanova, I.S., A.I. Grachev, A.G. Somov, V.N. Burkanod, K.L. Laidre, and P.L. Boveng, "The commercial harvest of ice-associated seals in the Sea of Okhotsk, 1972-1994," Plos One, 12, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0182725, 2017.

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10 Aug 2017

Sealing log books from 75 out of 79 commercial harvest cruises carried out between 1972 and 1994 in the Sea of Okhotsk, Russia, were analyzed to describe spatial and temporal allocation of ice-associated seal harvest effort, species composition of catches, total harvest rates, and related parameters for species including ringed (Pusa hispida), ribbon (Histriophoca fasciata), bearded (Erignathus barbatus) and spotted (Phoca largha) seal. Variations in catch per unit effort were explored in relation to year, sea ice conditions, day of the year, and geographic location. In most years, the harvest was predominantly represented by ringed seals (mean = 0.43, range 0.25–0.67), followed by ribbon (mean = 0.31, range 0.15–0.43), spotted (mean = 0.19, range 0.11–0.35) and bearded seals (mean = 0.07, range 0.03–0.14). The struck-and-lost percentages were as high as 30–35% for ringed, bearded and spotted seals and 15–20% for ribbon seals. Catch per unit effort (number of seals/skiff*day) for ringed, ribbon, and spotted seals had a similar seasonal pattern with a distinct spike in catches for spotted seals in the first week of May, for ribbon seals in the last week of May, and for ringed seals in the second week of June. Catches of bearded seals showed a less pronounced temporal structure with a gradual increase toward the end of the harvest season in the majority of years. Spatial distribution of harvest effort followed closely with seal distribution obtained from aerial surveys. These data could be used as a source of information on seal herd location throughout the breeding and molting seasons and for more complex demographic or life-table models. We did not find any evidence of the decline of catch per unit effort over the study period. Timely introduction of state regulations and efficient harvest management apparently prevented severe depletion of ice-associated seal populations in the Sea of Okhotsk during the periods of their intense exploitation.

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In The News

Beluga whales dive deeper, longer to find food in Arctic

UW News, Michelle Ma

Beluga whales that spend summers feeding in the Arctic are diving deeper and longer to find food than in earlier years, when sea ice covered more of the ocean for longer periods, according to a new analysis led by University of Washington researchers.

20 Feb 2018

Research uncovers the mysterious lives of narwhals

UW News

"Arctic marine mammals are really good indicators of climate change because they are very specialized," says Kristin Laidre. "They are finely attuned to specific environmental conditions, so they are good indicator species for how the physical changes many scientists are documenting in the Arctic can reverberate throughout the ecosystem."

9 Feb 2018

Human disturbance hits narwhals where it hurts — the heart

Washington Post, Ben Guarino

Kristen Laidre comments that the paper "provides a new angle on the vulnerability of narwhals to anthropogenic disturbance, which is linked to the sweeping environmental changes we are observing across the Arctic."

7 Dec 2017

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