Sarah H Peterson

Sarah H Peterson
United States Geological Survey | USGS · Western Ecological Research Center

PhD

About

56
Publications
10,363
Reads
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997
Citations
Additional affiliations
August 2015 - present
U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center
Position
  • Researcher
September 2010 - June 2015
University of California, Santa Cruz
Position
  • PhD Student
September 2006 - June 2008
Western Washington University
Position
  • Master's Student

Publications

Publications (56)
Article
Full-text available
Mercury contamination of oceans is prevalent worldwide and methylmercury concentrations in the mesopelagic zone (200-1000 m) are increasing more rapidly than in surface waters. Yet mercury bioaccumulation in mesopelagic predators has been understudied. Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) biannually travel thousands of kilometres to fo...
Article
Full-text available
Large fluctuations in animal body mass in relation to life-history events can influence contaminant concentrations and toxicological risk. We quantified mercury concentrations in adult northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) before and after lengthy at sea foraging trips (n = 89) or fasting periods on land (n = 27), and showed that mercur...
Article
Full-text available
Feathers are widely used to represent mercury contamination in birds. Yet, few recommendations exist that provide guidance for using bird feathers in mercury monitoring programs. We conducted a literature review and 5 experiments to show that mercury concentrations vary substantially within (vane >100% higher than calamus) and among (>1000%) indivi...
Article
Bioaccumulation of environmental contaminants in mammalian predators can serve as an indicator of ecosystem health. We examined mercury concentrations of raccoons (Procyon lotor; n = 37 individuals) and striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis; n = 87 individuals) in Suisun Marsh, California, a large brackish marsh that is characterized by contiguous trac...
Article
Full-text available
Nest predation is the main cause of nest failure for ducks. Understanding how habitat features influence predator movements may facilitate management of upland and wetland breeding habitats that reduces predator encounter rates with duck nests and increases nest survival rates. For 1618 duck nests, nest survival increased with distance to phragmite...
Article
Environmental contamination is widespread and can negatively impact wildlife health. Some contaminants, including heavy metals, have immunosuppressive effects, but prior studies have rarely measured contamination and disease simultaneously, which limits our understanding of how contaminants and pathogens interact to influence wildlife health. Here,...
Article
Full-text available
Availability of wetlands with low salinities during the breeding season can influence waterfowl reproductive success and population recruitment. Salinities as low as 2 ppt (3.6 mScm–1) can impair duckling growth and influence behavior, with mortality occurring above 9 ppt (14.8 mScm–1). We used satellite imagery to quantify the amount of available...
Article
Full-text available
Small mesopelagic fishes dominate the world's total fish biomass, yet their ecological importance as prey for large marine animals is poorly understood. To reveal the little-known ecosystem dynamics, we identified prey, measured feeding events, and quantified the daily energy balance of 48 deep-diving elephant seals throughout their oceanic migrati...
Article
Full-text available
Incubating birds must balance the needs of their developing embryos with their own physiological needs, and many birds accomplish this by taking periodic breaks from incubation. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and gadwall (Mareca strepera) hens typically take incubation recesses in the early morning and late afternoon, but recesses can also take place...
Article
Full-text available
Nesting birds must provide a thermal environment sufficient for egg development while also meeting self‐maintenance needs. Many birds, particularly those with uniparental incubation, achieve this balance through periodic incubation recesses, during which foraging and other self‐maintenance activities can occur. However, incubating birds may experie...
Article
Full-text available
Eggshell thickness is important for physiological, ecological, and ecotoxicological studies on birds; however, empirical eggshell thickness measurements for many species and regions are limited. We measured eggshell thickness at the equator and the egg poles for 12 avian species and related eggshell thickness to egg morphometrics, embryonic develop...
Article
Full-text available
Breeding success should increase with prior knowledge of the surrounding environment, which is dependent upon an animal's ability to evaluate habitat. Prospecting for nesting locations and migratory stopover sites are well-established behaviours among bird species. We assessed whether three species of California dabbling ducks – mallards, Anas plat...
Article
Radio‐telemetry is a commonly used scientific technique that allows researchers to collect detailed movement, habitat use, and survival data of animals; however, evidence indicates that using telemetry can affect behavior and survival. Using multiple breeding colonies and years, we investigated the effects of attached radio‐transmitters on growth a...
Article
Knowledge of the diet of marine mammals is fundamental to understanding their role in marine ecosystems and response to environmental change. Recently, animal-borne video cameras have revealed the diet of marine mammals that make short foraging trips. However, novel approaches that allocate video time to target prey capture events is required to ob...
Presentation
Outreach to landowners and waterfowl hunters about the conservation and promotion and post-breeding mallard habitat within California and Southern Oregon
Article
Full-text available
Since the last Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) effort to review biological effects of the exposure to organohalogen compounds (OHCs) in Arctic biota, there has been a considerable number of new Arctic effect studies. Here, we provide an update on the state of the knowledge of OHC, and also include mercury, exposure and/or associat...
Article
Full-text available
For ground‐nesting waterfowl, the timing of egg hatch and duckling departure from the nest may be influenced by the risk of predation at the nest and en route to wetlands and constrained by the time required for ducklings to imprint on the hen and be physically able to leave the nest. We determined the timing of hatch, nest departure, and predation...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Spatio-temporal patterns of movement can characterize relationships between organisms and their surroundings, and address gaps in our understanding of species ecology, activity budgets, bioenergetics, and habitat resource management. Highly mobile waterfowl, which can exploit resources over large spatial extents, are excellent models to...
Article
Expanding gull (Laridae) populations throughout the world have been attributed to the availability of anthropogenic food subsidies. The influence of landfills on California Gull (Larus californicus) space use and the timing of their movements was evaluated in San Francisco Bay, California, USA. Using radio telemetry, 108 California Gulls were track...
Chapter
Feeding ecology is a primary driver of contaminant exposure for mammalian species, thus tools to quantify diet and habitat use are a key component of many ecotoxicological studies. In this chapter, we discuss the fate and transport of contaminants to coastal ecosystems and review the feeding ecology tools available for coastal mammals, a group comp...
Article
Full-text available
Intraspecific variability in foraging behavior has been documented across a range of taxonomic groups, yet the energetic consequences of this variation are not well understood for many species. Understanding the effect of behavioral variation on energy expenditure and acquisition is particularly crucial for mammalian carnivores because they have hi...
Article
Full-text available
Predators sample the available prey community when foraging; thus, changes in the environment may be reflected by changes in predator diet and foraging preferences. We examined Forster’s tern (Sterna forsteri) prey species over an 11-year period by sampling approximately 10,000 prey fish returned to 17 breeding colonies in south San Francisco Bay,...
Article
Full-text available
Depredation plays an important role in determining duck nest success and predator and female duck behavior during nest depredation can influence nest fate. We examined depredation of mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and gadwall (A. strepera) nests in Suisun Marsh, California, USA, in 2015–2016 with continuous infrared video monitoring to identify nest...
Article
Full-text available
Little is known about the foraging behavior of top predators in the deep mesopelagic ocean. Elephant seals dive to the deep biota-poor oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) (>800 m depth) despite high diving costs in terms of energy and time, but how they successfully forage in the OMZ remains largely unknown. Assessment of their feeding rate is the key to und...
Article
Environmental contaminants are a concern for animal health, but contaminant exposure can also be used as a tracer of foraging ecology. In particular, mercury (Hg) concentrations are highly variable among aquatic and terrestrial food webs as a result of habitat- and site-specific biogeochemical processes that produce the bioaccumulative form, methyl...
Article
Eggshells are a potential tool for non-lethally sampling contaminant concentrations in bird eggs, yet few studies have examined their utility to represent mercury exposure. We assessed mercury concentrations in eggshell components for 23 bird species and determined whether they correlated with total mercury (THg) in egg contents. We designed a mult...
Article
The highly urbanized San Francisco Bay Estuary, California, USA, is currently undergoing large-scale habitat restoration, and several thousand hectares of former salt evaporation ponds are being converted to tidal marsh. To identify potential effects of this habitat restoration on breeding waterbirds, habitat selection of radiotagged Forster's Tern...
Article
Long-lived, upper trophic level marine mammals are vulnerable to bioaccumulation of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Internal tissues may accumulate and mobilize POP compounds at different rates related to the body condition of the animal and the chemical characteristics of individual POP compounds; however, collection of samples from multiple...
Article
Full-text available
Rationale: Mixing models are a common method for quantifying the contribution of prey sources to the diet of an individual using stable isotope analysis; however, these models rely upon a known trophic discrimination factor (hereafter, TDF) that results from fractionation between prey and animal tissues. Quantifying TDFs in captive animals is idea...
Article
Foraging theory predicts that predators adjust their movements according to the spatial distribution of prey. Since prey is often patchily distributed, area-restricted search (ARS) behaviour, characterized by sinuous search paths of predators with increased turning frequency, should be effective in foraging. However, it remains unclear whether ARS...
Article
Full-text available
Mercury (Hg) biomonitoring and toxicological risk assessments for marine mammals commonly sample different tissues, making comparisons to toxicity benchmarks and among species and regions difficult. Few studies have examined how life history events, such as fasting, influence the relationship between total Hg (THg) concentrations in different tissu...
Article
Full-text available
We measured total mercury (THg) concentrations in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) and examined how concentrations varied with age class, colony, and sex. Because Hg exposure is primarily via diet, we used nitrogen (δ 15N) and carbon (δ 13C) stable isotopes to determine if intraspecific differences in THg concentrations could be explai...
Article
Full-text available
Mercury (Hg) biomonitoring of pinnipeds increasingly utilizes nonlethally collected tissues such as hair and blood. The relationship between total Hg concentrations ([THg]) in these tissues is not well understood for marine mammals, but it can be important for interpretation of tissue concentrations with respect to ecotoxicology and biomonitoring....
Article
Full-text available
Fat mass and body condition are important metrics in bioenergetics and physiological studies. They can also link foraging success with demographic rates, making them key components of models that predict population-level outcomes of environmental change. Therefore, it is important to incorporate uncertainty in physiological indicators if results wi...
Article
Full-text available
Stable isotope analysis of slow-growing, metabolically inert tissues is a common method for investigating foraging ecology in migratory animals, as direct observations of feeding are often not possible. Using tissue growth dynamics to interpret foraging timelines can maximize the utility of foraging data; however, applying inappropriate growth mode...
Article
Full-text available
Foraging theory predicts that breath-hold divers adjust the time spent foraging at depth relative to the energetic cost of swimming, which varies with buoyancy (body density). However, the buoyancy of diving animals varies as a function of their body condition, and the effects of these changes on swimming costs and foraging behaviour have been poor...
Article
Full-text available
Persistent organic pollutants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), are widely distributed and detectable far from anthropogenic sources. Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) biannually travel thousands of kilometers to forage in coastal and open-ocean regions of the northeast Pacific Ocean and then return to land where they fas...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Northern elephant seals spend approximately eight months foraging at sea and only return to land for about four months to breed and molt. Researchers have long assumed that these seals exhibit fidelity towards specific sites, returning annually to both molt and breed in the same location. However, recent research calls this assumption into question...
Article
Full-text available
Worldwide, adult harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) typically limit their movements and activity to <50 km from their primary haul-out site. As a result, the ecological impact of harbor seals is viewed as limited to relatively small spatial scales. Harbor seals in the Pacific Northwest are believed to remain <30 km from their primary haul-out site, one...
Data
This supplemental text is a description of the process in ArcView 10 that was used to obtain over-water distances. (DOC)
Data
Filtering method visually represented for one seal. Locations in dark gray were removed by the speed-distance-angle filter and locations in blue were removed by the particle filter, leaving the locations in yellow to be analyzed. (TIF)
Data
This supplemental text is a description of the particle filter that was applied to satellite-derived locations as part of the pre-analysis filtering protocols. (DOC)
Article
Full-text available
The mesopelagic zone of the northeast Pacific Ocean is an important foraging habitat for many predators, yet few studies have addressed the factors driving basin-scale predator distributions or inter-annual variability in foraging and breeding success. Understanding these processes is critical to reveal how conditions at sea cascade to population-l...

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Projects

Project (1)
Project
At the USGS we work the California DWR to examine the trends in bird declines in Suisun Marsh, a critical habitat for wintering and breeding waterbirds in California. Our aim is to assess the habitat factors driving long-term survival of waterfowl, rails, and other birds in this important area with my role being to analyze a wealth of tracking data to develop an in-depth understanding of waterfowl movement.