Sarah Peterson

Biography

Dr. Sarah Peterson is a Wildlife Biologist at the Dixon Field Station. She is broadly interested in the ecology and movement of upper trophic level predators, with a focus on birds and mammals. Additionally, she is interested in the interplay between foraging ecology and both contaminant bioaccumulation and toxicological risk. She conducted her PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she examined how ecology and physiology influence contaminant bioaccumulation (mercury and persistent organic pollutants) in seals and sea lions. 

Currently, she is working as part of a large collaborative research effort to study ground-nesting waterfowl at Grizzly Island Wildlife Area. She is leading a portion of the study focused on quantifying survival and movements of mallard and gadwall ducklings, using VHF radio-telemetry. She is also examining the movement of duck nest predators (raccoons and skunks) around duck nests using GPS technology.

 

Education

  • Ph.D. 2015. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. University of California Santa Cruz
  • M.Sc. 2008. Marine and Estuarine Science. Dept. of Biology. Western Washington University
  • B.A. 2005. Biology and Environmental Studies. Whitman College

 

Professional Research Experience

  • Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Dixon Field Station, California (2015 – present)
  • Research Volunteer, Yellowstone Gray Wolf Recovery Program, Yellowstone National Park (Yellowstone Association), Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming (June 2015)
  • Doctoral Research, Ecology, Physiology & Conservation of Marine Animals Laboratory, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California (2010 – 2015)
  • Biological Technician (shorebird & seabird research), U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Davis Field Station, California (2010)
  • Biological Technician, Yellowstone Gray Wolf Recovery Program, Yellowstone National Park (Yellowstone Association), Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming (2008 – 2009)
  • Masters Research, Marine Mammal Ecology Lab, Dept. of Biology, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington (2006 – 2008)
  • Graduate Student Research Assistant, Marine Mammal Ecology Lab, Dept. of Biology, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington (Summer 2007)
  • Biological Researcher, Ecological Research Station, Öland, Sweden (Summer 2004)
  • Field Assistant, Botswana Wild Dog Research Camp, Botswana, Africa (Fall 2003)

 

Outreach and Education

  • Graduate Student Teaching Assistant, Biology of Marine Mammals, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California (Spring 2011 & Spring 2015)
  • Naturalist & Kayak Guide, Santa Cruz and Moss Landing, California (2011 – 2015)
  • Graduate Student Teaching Assistant, Field Methods in Ecology and Conservation. Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California (Spring 2014)
  • Naturalist & Guide, Southeast Alaska (Summer 2007 – 2009 & 2014)
  • Graduate Student Teaching Assistant, Introductory Biology Laboratory: Plants & Animals, Dept. of Biology, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington (2007 – 2008)
  • Naturalist & Kayak Guide, Friday Harbor, Washington (Summer 2005 & 2006)
  • GK-12 National Science Foundation Fellow (graduate students in K-12 education), Dept. of Biology, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington (2006 – 2007)
  • Science Instructor, The Ocean Institute, Dana Point, California (2005 – 2006)

 

Peer-Reviewed Publications

2019. Peterson, S.H., J.T. Ackerman, M. Toney, M.P. Herzog. Mercury concentrations vary within and among individual bird feathers: A critical evaluation and guidelines for feather use in mercury monitoring programs. Critical Reviews: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

2019. Peterson, S.H., J.T. Ackerman, M.P. Herzog, C.A. Hartman, R. Croston, C.L. Feldheim, M.L. Casazza. Sitting ducklings: Timing of hatch, nest departure, and predation risk for dabbling duck broods. Ecology and Evolution 00:1-11. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5146

2019. McDuie, F., M.L. Casazza, C.T. Overton, M.P. Herzog, C.A. Hartman, S.H. Peterson, C.L. Feldheim, J.T. Ackerman. 2019. GPS tracking data reveals daily spatio-temporal movement patterns of waterfowl. Movement Ecology 7:6

2018. Peterson, S.H., J.T. Ackerman, D.E. Crocker, D.P. Costa. Foraging and fasting can influence contaminant concentrations in animals: An example with mercury contamination in a free-ranging marine mammal. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285:20172782

2018. Peterson, S.H., J.T. Ackerman, C.A. Eagles-Smith, M.P. Herzog, C.A. Hartman. Prey fish returned to Forster's tern colonies suggest spatial and temporal differences in fish composition and availability. PLoS ONE 13(3): e0193430

2018. Ackerman, J.T., S.H. Peterson, D.C. Tsao, J.Y. Takekawa. California gull (Larus californicus) space use and movements in relation to landfills and breeding colonies. Waterbirds 41(4): 384-400

2018. Spurlin, S.M, S.H. Peterson, D.E Crocker, D.P. Costa. Nitrogen and carbon stable-isotope ratios change in adult northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) during the breeding and molting fasts. Marine Mammal Science

2018. Croston, R., J.T. Ackerman, M.P. Herzog, J.D. Kohl, C.A. Hartman, S.H. Peterson, C.T. Overton, C.L. Feldheim, M.L. Casazza. Duck nest depredation, predator behavior, and female response using video. Journal of Wildlife Management 82(5): 1014-1025

2018. McHuron, E., S.H. Peterson, L.A. Hückstädt, S.R. Melin, J.D. Harris, D.P. Costa. The energetic consequences of behavioral variation in a large marine carnivore. Ecology and Evolution 8(8): 1-12

2017. Peterson, S.H., J.T. Ackerman, C.A. Eagles-Smith. Mercury contamination and stable isotopes reveal foraging ecology of generalist California gulls. Ecological Indicators 74:205-215

2017. Peterson, S.H., J. Ackerman, C. Eagles-Smith, M. Herzog, C.A. Hartman. A critical evaluation of the utility of eggshells for estimating mercury concentrations in avian eggs. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 36(9):2417-2427

2017. Naito, Y., D.P. Costa, T. Adachi, P.W. Robinson, S.H. Peterson, Y. Mitani, A. Takahashi. Oxygen minimum zone: A key oceanographic habitat for deep-diving northern elephant seals, Mirounga angustirostris. Ecology and Evolution 7(16):6259-6270

2017. Adachi, T. D.P. Costa, P.W. Robinson, S.H. Peterson, M. Yamamichi, Y. Naito, and A. Takahashi. Searching for prey in a 3D environment: Hierarchical movements enhance foraging success in northern elephant seals. Functional Ecology 31: 361-369

2016. Peterson, S.H., J.T. Ackerman, D.P. Costa. Mercury correlations among blood, muscle, and hair of northern elephant seals during the breeding and molting fasts. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 35(8): 2103-2110

2016. Peterson, S.H., E.A. McHuron, S. Kennedy, J.T. Ackerman, L.D. Rea, J.M. Castellini, T.M. O’Hara, and D.P. Costa. Evaluating hair as a predictor of blood mercury: The influence of ontogenetic phase and life history in pinnipeds. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology: Special Issue (Toxicology of Marine Mammals: New Developments and Opportunities) 70(1):28-45

2016. McHuron, E.A. S.H. Peterson, J.T. Ackerman, S. Melin, R. DeLong, J. Harris, and D.P. Costa. Effects of age, colony, and sex on mercury concentrations in California sea lions. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology: Special Issue (Toxicology of Marine Mammals: New Developments and Opportunities) 70(1):46-55

2016. Peterson, M.G., S.H. Peterson, C. Debier, A. Covaci, A. Dirtu, G. Malarvannan, D.E. Crocker, D.P. Costa. Serum POP concentrations are highly predictive of inner blubber POP concentrations at two extremes of body condition in female and male northern elephant seals. Environmental Pollution 218:651-663

2016. Beltran, R.S., S.H. Peterson, E.A. McHuron, C. Reichmuth, L.A. Hückstädt, and D.P. Costa. Seals and sea lions are what they eat, plus what? Determination of trophic discrimination factors for seven pinniped species. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 30(9):1115-1122

2016. Ackerman, J.T., C.A Eagles-Smith, M.P. Herzog, C.A. Hartman, S.H. Peterson, D.C. Evers, A.K. Jackson, J.E. Elliot, S.S. Vander Pol, C.E. Bryan. Avian mercury exposure and toxicological risk across western North America: A synthesis. Science of the Total Environment 568: 749-769

2016. Bluso-Demers, J.D., J.T. Ackerman, J.Y. Takekawa, S.H. Peterson. Habitat selection by Forster’s terns (Sterna forsteri) at multiple scales in an urbanized estuary: The importance of salt ponds. Waterbirds 39:375-387

2015. Peterson, S.H., J.T. Ackerman, and D.P. Costa. Marine foraging ecology influences mercury bioaccumulation in deep-diving northern elephant seals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282:20150710

2015. Peterson, S.H., M.G. Peterson, C. Debier, A. Covaci, A.C. Dirtu, G. Malarvannan, D.E. Crocker, L.K. Schwarz, and D.P Costa. Deep-ocean foraging northern elephant seals bioaccumulate persistent organic pollutants. Science of the Total Environment 533:144-155

2015. Schwarz, L.K., S. Villegas-Amtmann, R.S. Beltran, D.P. Costa, C. Goetsch, L.A. Hückstädt, J.L. Maresh, and S.H. Peterson. Comparisons and uncertainty in fat and adipose tissue estimation techniques: The northern elephant seal as a case study. PLoS ONE 10(6):e0131877

2015. Beltran, R.S., M. Connolly Sadou, R. Condit, S.H. Peterson, C. Reichmuth, and D.P. Costa. Fine-scale whisker growth measurements can reveal temporal foraging patterns from stable isotope signatures. Marine Ecology Progress Series 523:243-253

2014. Adachi, T., J. Maresh, P.W. Robinson, S.H. Peterson, D.P. Costa, Y. Naito, Y. Watanabe, and A. Takahashi. The foraging benefits of being fat in a highly migratory marine mammal. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281:20142120

2014. Peterson, S.H., J.L. Hassrick, A. Lafontaine, J-P. Thome, D.E. Crocker, C. Debier, and D.P. Costa. Effects of age, adipose percent and reproduction on PCB concentrations and profiles in an extreme fasting north Pacific marine mammal. PLoS ONE 9(4):e96191

2012. Peterson, S.H., M.M. Lance, S.J. Jeffries and A. Acevedo. Long distance movements and disjunct spatial use of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) in the inland waters of the Pacific Northwest. PLoS ONE7(6):e39046

2012. Robinson, P.W., D. P. Costa, D. E. Crocker, J. P. Gallo-Reynoso, C. Champagne, M. A. Fowler, C. Goetsch, K. Goetz, J. Hassrick, L. A. Huckstadt, C. Kuhn, J. Maresh, S. M. Maxwell, B. McDonald, S. Peterson, S. E. Simmons, N. M. Teutschel, S. Villegas-Amtmann, and K. Yoda. Foraging Behavior and Success of a Mesopelagic Predator in the Northeast Pacific Ocean: Insights from a Data-Rich Species, the Northern Elephant Seal. PLoS ONE. 7(5): e36728