April has been another month of steady progress on a few different projects, but nothing that's overly exciting to share. However Darryl's trip to The Catlins with his family over the Easter weekend, where they encountered some New Zealand sea lions (NZSL; video below), has prompted us to talk about aspects of a project that we are about to undertake.
Over the last 20-30 years NZSL have been reappearing on some South Island and Stewart Island beaches, with some small breeding colonies having been established. A conservation concern is to assess the risk posed by fishing activities, and other possible impacts, on these small populations.
To help assess the level of risk, Proteus will be analysing tracking data collected on NZSL sampled from these populations. This tracking data from a sample of individuals will be used to develop a species utilisation map to identify which areas around the South and Stewart Island coastlines are more highly used by these sea lion populations. We have a couple of different approaches in mind for how to develop these utilisation models, with a key consideration being to ensure that all of the appropriate sources of variation and uncertainty are carried through to the final prediction of levels of use. We shall finalise our approach once the analysis begins in earnest.
As an aside, NZSL are a species that we keep getting involved for some reason. In fact, it was due to David Fletcher and Darryl MacKenzie working on a NZSL project when they decided to form a consulting company that provided the idea for calling the company Proteus!