Campus Map

Donna Hauser

Marine Biologist



Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Indirect effects of sea ice loss on summer–fall habitat and behaviour for sympatric populations of an Arctic marine predator

Hauser, D.D.W., K.L. Laidre, H.L. Stern, R.S. Suydam, and P.R. Richard, "Indirect effects of sea ice loss on summer–fall habitat and behaviour for sympatric populations of an Arctic marine predator," Divers. Distrib., EOR, doi:10.1111/ddi.12722, 2018.

More Info

1 Feb 2018

Climate change is fundamentally altering habitats, with complex consequences for species across the globe. The Arctic has warmed 2–3 times faster than the global average, and unprecedented sea ice loss can have multiple outcomes for ice‐associated marine predators. Our goal was to assess impacts of sea ice loss on population‐specific habitat and behaviour of a migratory Arctic cetacean.

Using satellite telemetry data collected during summer–fall from sympatric beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) populations ("Chukchi" and "Beaufort" belugas), we applied generalized estimating equations to evaluate shifts in sea ice habitat associations and diving behaviour during two periods: 1993–2002 ("early") and 2004–2012 ("late"). We used resource selection functions to assess changes in sea ice selection as well as predict trends in habitat selection and "optimal" habitat, based on satellite‐derived sea ice data from 1990 to 2014.

Sea ice cover declined substantially between periods, and Chukchi belugas specifically used significantly lower sea ice concentrations during the late than early period. Use of bathymetric features did not change between periods for either population. Population‐specific sea ice selection, predicted habitat and the amount of optimal habitat also generally did not change during 1990–2014. Chukchi belugas tracked during 2007–2012 made significantly more long‐duration and deeper dives than those tracked during 1998–2002.

Taken together, our results suggest bathymetric parameters are consistent predictors of summer–fall beluga habitat rather than selection for specific sea ice conditions during recent sea ice loss. Beluga whales were able to mediate habitat change despite their sea ice associations. However, trends towards prolonged and deeper diving possibly indicate shifting foraging opportunities associated with ecological changes that occur in concert with sea ice loss. Our results highlight that responses by some Arctic marine wildlife can be indirect and variable among populations, which could be included in predictions for the future.

Aerial survey estimates of abundance of the eastern Chukchi Sea stock of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in 2012

Lowry, L.F., M.C.S. Kingsley, D.D.W. Hauser, J. Clarke, and R. Suydam, "Aerial survey estimates of abundance of the eastern Chukchi Sea stock of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in 2012," Arctic, 70, 273-286, doi:10.14430/arctic4667, 2017.

More Info

1 Sep 2017

The eastern Chukchi Sea (ECS) stock of beluga whales is one of three stocks in western Alaska that are co-managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee. Abundance of this stock was estimated as 3710 in 1991 from incomplete data. Analysis of data from satellite-linked time-depth recorders (SDRs) attached to belugas in summer concentration areas of the ECS and Beaufort Sea (BS) stocks provided an overview of beluga distribution and movements and allowed the identification of an area (140° W to 157° W in the BS) and a time period (19 July – 20 August) in which the distributions of the two stocks do not overlap. Aerial survey data were collected by the Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals (ASAMM) project in that region and time period in 2012. We used those data in a line transect analysis that estimated there were 5547 (CV = 0.22) surface-visible belugas in the study area. Data from SDRs were used to develop correction factors to account for animals that were missed because they were either outside of the study area or diving too deep to be seen, resulting in a total abundance estimate of 20 752 (CV = 0.70). The average annual Alaska Native subsistence harvest from the ECS stock (57) is about 0.3% of the population estimate. Without data collected by the ASAMM project and from satellite-linked tags, this analysis would not have been possible. Additional surveys and tagging of ECS belugas are warranted.

Decadal shifts in autumn migration timing by Pacific Arctic beluga whales are related to delayed annual sea ice formation

Hauser, D.D.W., K.L. Laidre, K.M. Stafford, H.L. Stern, R.S. Suydam, and P.R. Richard, "Decadal shifts in autumn migration timing by Pacific Arctic beluga whales are related to delayed annual sea ice formation," Global Clim. Change, 23, 2206-2217, doi:10.111/gcb.13564, 2017.

More Info

1 Jun 2017

Migrations are often influenced by seasonal environmental gradients that are increasingly being altered by climate change. The consequences of rapid changes in Arctic sea ice have the potential to affect migrations of a number of marine species whose timing is temporally matched to seasonal sea ice cover. This topic has not been investigated for Pacific Arctic beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) that follow matrilineally maintained autumn migrations in the waters around Alaska and Russia. For the sympatric Eastern Chukchi Sea ('Chukchi') and Eastern Beaufort Sea ('Beaufort') beluga populations, we examined changes in autumn migration timing as related to delayed regional sea ice freeze-up since the 1990s, using two independent data sources (satellite telemetry data and passive acoustics) for both populations. We compared dates of migration between 'early' (1993–2002) and 'late' (2004–2012) tagging periods. During the late tagging period, Chukchi belugas had significantly delayed migrations (by 2 to >4 weeks, depending on location) from the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. Spatial analyses also revealed that departure from Beaufort Sea foraging regions by Chukchi whales was postponed in the late period. Chukchi beluga autumn migration timing occurred significantly later as regional sea ice freeze-up timing became later in the Beaufort, Chukchi, and Bering seas. In contrast, Beaufort belugas did not shift migration timing between periods, nor was migration timing related to freeze-up timing, other than for southward migration at the Bering Strait. Passive acoustic data from 2008 to 2014 provided independent and supplementary support for delayed migration from the Beaufort Sea (4 day yr) by Chukchi belugas. Here, we report the first phenological study examining beluga whale migrations within the context of their rapidly transforming Pacific Arctic ecosystem, suggesting flexible responses that may enable their persistence yet also complicate predictions of how belugas may fare in the future.

More Publications

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