Cluster 3: Blubber, Feathers, and Fur: Exploring Animals in the Ocean and on Land

Cluster 3:  Blubber, Feathers, and Fur: Exploring Animals in the Ocean and on Land

In this cluster, students gain insight into key concepts of marine mammal and terrestrial animal biology and ecology through an active-hands-on approach in the field. Students will investigate the life history, physiology, and conservation of marine mammals (seals, sea lions, dolphins, whales, and sea otters) living just off our shores. In addition, students will learn field techniques, such as animal tracking and habitat mapping, used to study terrestrial birds and mammals; these skills can be applied to learning about the natural history of any place you go. Marine and terrestrial mammals and birds alike are facing increasing threats from human and climate perturbations that can compromise their very existence.

Prerequisite: Completion of Algebra 1 and Biology

All students in this cluster will be enrolled in the following courses:

Marine Mammal Biology

Instructor: Shawn Noren, PhD, Research Scientist, IMS-UCSC

Similar to humans and other terrestrial mammals, dolphins and seals must breathe air and maintain a stable core body temperature in order to survive. Yet living in the ocean creates a paradox: marine mammals must hold their breath to forage and their aquatic environment rapidly steals body heat. Over evolutionary time, marine mammals have acquired amazing physiological adaptations to endure these challenges. In this class we will explore the life history, physiology, and conservation of this fascinating group of mammals. Field trips include a marine mammal survey in Monterey Bay, trip to Año Nuevo State Beach to observe northern elephant seals, Long Marine Laboratory to learn about dolphin thermoregulation, and the Marine Mammal Center (a marine mammal hospital to rehabilitate sick and injured wild marine mammals).


Natural History of Birds and Mammals

Instructor: Alex Jones, M.S., UC Santa Cruz Campus Natural Reserve Manager

We will explore the diversity of birds and mammals through a combination of field and natural history museum activities. Students will develop essential observation, identification and field technique skills that scientists, including citizen scientists, use to study animals in the wild. Field trips and exercises will focus on a variety of topics including animal tracking, small mammal live trapping, habitat mapping, birding by sight and sound, and possibly bird banding. Through these exercises, you will develop skills that will enable you to learn about the natural history and ecology of any place you go and deepen your appreciation and respect for the natural world.