Campus Map

Kristin Laidre

Principal Oceanographer

Assistant Professor, Fisheries





Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


B.S. Zoology, University of Washington - Seattle, 1999

Ph.D. Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, University of Washington - Seattle, 2003

Kristin Laidre's Website



2000-present and while at APL-UW

Influence of occupation history and habitat on Washington sea otter diet

Hale, J.R., K.L. Laidre, M.T. Tinker, R.J. Jameson, S.J. Jeffries, S.E. Larson, and J.L. Bodkin, "Influence of occupation history and habitat on Washington sea otter diet," Mar. Mammal Sci., EOR, doi:10.1111/mms.12598, 2019.

More Info

27 Mar 2019

Habitat characteristics are primary determinants of nearshore marine communities. However, biological drivers like predation can also be important for community composition. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris ssp.) are a salient example of a keystone species exerting top‐down control on ecosystem community structure. The translocation and subsequent population growth and range expansion of the northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) in Washington State over the last five decades has created a spatio‐temporal gradient in sea otter occupation time and density, and acts as a natural experiment to quantify how sea otter population status and habitat type influence sea otter diet. We collected focal observations of sea otters foraging at sites across the gradient in varying habitat types between 2010 and 2017. We quantified sea otter diet composition and diversity, and long‐term rates of energy gain across the gradient. We found that sea otter diet diversity was positively correlated with cumulative sea otter density, while rate of energy gain was negatively correlated with cumulative density. Additionally, we found that habitat type explained 1.77 times more variance in sea otter diet composition than sea otter cumulative density. Long‐term diet studies can provide a broader picture of sea otter population status in Washington State.

Variation in non-metrical skull traits of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and relationships across East Greenland and adjacent subpopulations (1830–2013)

Wiig, Ø., P. Henrichsen, T. Sjøvold, E.W. Born, K.L. Laidre, R. Dietz, C. Sonne, and J. Aars, "Variation in non-metrical skull traits of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and relationships across East Greenland and adjacent subpopulations (1830–2013)," Polar Biol., 42, 461-474, doi:10.1007/s00300-018-2435-x, 2019.

More Info

1 Mar 2019

Knowledge of subpopulation identity including substructure is a prerequisite for sound management of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). It is not known whether the present catch of polar bears in the East Greenland subpopulation (EG) is sustainable. We used the Mean Measure of Divergence (MMD) to examine geographical variation in non-metrical traits from 1414 polar bear (Ursus maritimus) skulls collected in East Greenland (EG), Svalbard (SVA), Franz Josef Land (FJL), Davis Strait (DS), Baffin Bay (BB), and Kane Basin (KB), between 1830 and 2013. We focused on East Greenland with the goal of examining substructuring in the subpopulation. We did not find significant differences among samples across four areas of the EG subpopulation (i.e., offshore Fram Strait, NE, SE, and SW Greenland) using data from 1830 to 1983. Our analyses did not lend support to substructuring. However, we draw our conclusions with caution because skulls were sampled over a long time period and had low power due to small sample sizes. Also, comparisons were limited to pre-1980s skulls. The decrease in sea ice in EG since the 1990s due to climate change may have led to substructuring not detected with MMD. This study contributes to the current efforts by Greenland authorities to quantify connectivity of polar bears between southeast and northeast Greenland which is important information for the evaluation of the sustainability of the catch of bears from the EG subpopulation.

Survey-based assessment of the frequency and potential impacts of recreation on polar bears

Rode, K.D., and 12 others including K.L. Laidre, "Survey-based assessment of the frequency and potential impacts of recreation on polar bears," Biol. Conserv., 227, 121-132, doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2018.09.008, 2018.

More Info

1 Nov 2018

Conservation plans for polar bears (Ursus maritimus) typically cannot prescribe management actions to address their primary threat: sea ice loss associated with climate warming. However, there may be other stressors that compound the negative effects of sea ice loss which can be mitigated. For example, Arctic tourism has increased concurrent with polar bears increasingly using terrestrial habitats, which creates the potential for increased human-bear interactions. Little is known about the types, frequency, or potential impacts of recreation. We conducted a Delphi survey among experts who live and work in polar bear habitats, followed by an internet-based survey to which 47 managers, tour operators, community members, and scientists contributed. Participants identified viewing-based recreation as increasing and affecting the largest proportion of bears within subpopulations that come ashore during the ice-free season. Survey respondents suggested that negative effects of viewing, including displacement and habituation, could be reduced by restricting human use areas and distances between bears and people. Killing of bears in defense was associated more with camping or hunting for other species than other recreations, and may be mitigated with deterrents. Snowmobiling was the most common recreation across the polar bears' range, and reportedly caused some den abandonment and displacement. However, respondents estimated that <10% of polar bears are exposed to most types of recreation and <50% surmised any negative impacts. Nevertheless, mitigating some of the negative impacts identified in this study may become increasingly important as polar bears cope with sea ice loss.

More Publications

In The News

DNA confirms a weird Greenland whale was a narwhal-beluga hybrid

Science News, Tina Hesman Saey

Kristin Laidre comments that it's impossible to say whether this hybrid is the only one because people observe these whales in the remote Arctic so infrequently.

20 Jun 2019

Polar science, climate change and, yes dance mix this weekend at Pacific Science Center

UW News, Hannah Hickey

Each year, University of Washington polar scientists share their work with the public during a three-day event at the Pacific Science Center. This year, the event is expanding to include broader discussions of climate change, alternative energy and cross-disciplinary efforts that combine science with other disciplines.

28 Feb 2019

As Arctic ship traffic increases, narwhals and other unique animals are at risk

The Conversation, Donna Hauser, Harry Stern, and Kristin Laidre

In a recent study, the authors assessed the vulnerability of 80 populations of Arctic marine mammals during the "open-water" period of September, when sea ice is at its minimum extent. They report that more than half (53 percent) of these populations — including walruses and several types of whales — would be exposed to vessels in Arctic sea routes. This could lead to collisions, noise disturbance, or changes in the animals' behavior.

9 Nov 2018

More News Items

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center