Local marine mammals are starring in the Seymour Center's winter program at UCSC's Long Marine Laboratory. From January through March, the center presents "Marvelous Marine Mammals," a series of events focused on Monterey Bay's sea lions, sea otters, dolphins, whales, and elephant seals, and the scientists who study them. Events include three science lectures, a whale-watching trip, and ongoing activities and presentations inside the exhibit hall at the Seymour Center, which is located at the end of Delaware Avenue in Santa Cruz.

Lecture Series

Thursday, January 31: Tom Kieckhefer, president of the Pacific Cetacean Group, will speak on "Whales and Dolphins of Monterey Bay." Kieckhefer's talk will highlight local whales and dolphins, particularly humpbacks, and will also review the work of the Pacific Cetacean Group.

Thursday, February 21: Daniel Costa, UCSC professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, will discuss "The At-Sea Biology of the Northern Elephant Seal." Considered "extreme animal athletes," elephant seals can dive for two hours at a time to depths of more than 5,000 feet.

Thursday, March 7: UCSC graduate student Laura Yeates will present "Warm and Fuzzy? How Sea Otters Manage in a Cold Ocean." Sea otters are the only marine mammals to rely solely on fur insulation rather than blubber to stay warm. Yeates has been working with otters at Long Marine Lab to study how they can survive frigid ocean temperatures.

All lectures will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Seymour Center. Tickets are $5 for the general public and $4 for members. Tickets and information are available from the Seymour Center at (831) 459-3800.

Whale-Watching Trip

View migrating gray whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and orcas up close from the decks of the Star of Monterey. Educator Christy Walker will lead the annual whale-watching trip on Sunday, February 3, 8:30-11 a.m., at Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey. Cost is $30 for the general public, $25 for members, and $20 for children 16 and under. Reservations are required, as space is limited; call (831) 459-3800.

Other Events

All winter, visitors to the Seymour Center can help track the migration of gray whales from Baja to Alaska or participate in one of the center's four "See More" Labs. Dress up like Rocky the California sea lion and find out what she's teaching scientists about sea lion vision and hearing; discover how the athletic abilities of human scuba divers compare to those of dolphins; play marine mammal Jeopardy; or explore "Otter Fodder," the surprising diets of sea otters.

The Marine Mammal Research Tour offers visitors a behind-the-scenes look at marine mammal research at Long Marine Lab. Experience the world of marine mammal researchers and learn how they study dolphins, sea lions, elephant seals, harbor seals, and blue whales. The tour is offered on the second Thursday and fourth Sunday of each month beginning at 2:15 p.m. For advance registration, call (831) 459-3799.

During spring break, March 23 to April 7, a variety of special marine mammal demonstrations, tours, and arts-and-crafts projects will be featured daily. The center will be closed Easter Sunday.

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Editor's note: For additional information, reporters may contact Lisa Borok, visitor programs manager at the Seymour Center, at (831) 459-5548 or laborok@cats.ucsc.edu.

Images can be downloaded from the web at http://www.ucsc.edu/news_events/download/.