Assessing Changes in Reproductive and Population Dynamics of Pacific Walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) in the Bering Sea through Long-Term Monitoring

Project Description

Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) are benthic feeders in the Bering Sea and serve as important sentinels of health for changing ecosystems in this region. Changes in the habitat of this animal may yield changes in population abundance, distribution, or reproduction. Pacific walruses are a difficult species to study due to their harsh environment, isolation, and large range. For these reasons determining population abundance and reproductive rates for this species is very challenging. Our research question is 1) have changes in the reproductive capacity of female Pacific walruses in the Bering Sea occurred in the past 40 years. To answer this question, we will perform gross dissections on ovaries sampled by Alaska Native subsistence hunters and examine scarring from ovulation. I will compare calculated rates from my study to published literature on reproduction and population trends. Results will shed light on changes in reproductive dynamics of Pacific walruses, aiding both the communities that depend on this species and the resource managers that manage them.

Project Funding

Rasmuson Foundation Resillence and Adaptation Program Erich Follman Memorial Student Research Support
Start Date: 2014-09-00
End Date: 2016-06-00


Research Team

Shannon Atkinson

Shannon Atkinson

Principal Investigator



  • marine animals’ failure to adapt to environmental change
  • reproduction in marine animals
  • climate change and effects on marine organism’s physiology
  • contaminants and the effects on marine mammals
  • nutrition
  • stress physiology of marine mammals

Full Profile


Co-Principal Investigators

Johnathan Snyder

Vera Metcalf
Alaska Walrus Commission

Link Olsen
UA Museum of the North

Aren Gunderson
UA Museum of the North


Research Staff

Janell Larsen, MSc