Stockton Marine Science Professor Carol Slocum, in cooperation with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC), began studying seals that winter in Southern New Jersey local waters in 1994. In a unique complementary study, the Stranding Center has provided the number of seals stranded and Stockton's field studies provide a scientific survey of healthy seals in natural habitats.
Sadly, Dr. Carol Slocum lost a battle to cancer in the spring of 2010. She will be sorely missed by her Stockton community, the many students whose lives she has influenced, and her colleagues across the Nation. Plans to continue offerings studies in marine mammals and to keep Carol's research going are underway.
The seals spend most of the year further north in New England or Canada but some are found further south when away from breeding colonies. The Northeast Stranding Network, and the MMSC have documented an increase in some northern species (e.g. harbor, harp, grey and hooded seals) in the last ten years.
The study begun by Dr. Slocum has gathered local field data during the past ten years. Combined with the records provided in cooperation with the MMSC, both statewide and local data are available for the first time. The Stockton study documents seal abundance, species composition, age class distribution, basic behavior, prey items and timing of return to the breeding colonies.
Understanding the dynamics of seal population biology is critical to predict changes in this population and to asses its effects on the coastal habitat.