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Kristin Laidre

Principal Oceanographer

Assistant Professor, Fisheries





Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


B.S. Zoology, University of Washington - Seattle, 1999

Ph.D. Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, University of Washington - Seattle, 2003

Kristin Laidre's Website



2000-present and while at APL-UW

Seasonal detections of bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) vocalizations in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait in relation to sea ice concentration

Boye, T.K., M.J. Simon, K.L. Laidre, F. Rignét, and K.M. Stafford, "Seasonal detections of bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) vocalizations in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait in relation to sea ice concentration," Polar Biol., EOR, doi:10.1007/s00300-020-02723-1, 2020.

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8 Aug 2020

There is limited information about the biology and seasonal distribution of bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) in Greenland. The species is highly ice-associated and depends on sea ice for hauling out and giving birth, making it vulnerable to climate change. We investigated the seasonality and distribution of bearded seal vocalizations at seven different locations across southern Baffin Bay and Davis Strait, West Greenland. Aural M2 and HARUphone recorders were deployed on the sea bottom during 2006–2007 and 2011–2013. Recordings were analyzed for presence/absence of bearded seal calls relative to location (including distance to shore and depth), mean sea ice concentration and diel patterns. Calling occurred between November and late June with most intense calling during the mating season at all sites. There was a clear effect of depth and distance to shore on the number of detections, and the Greenland shelf (< 300 m) appeared to be the preferred habitat for bearded seals during the mating season. These results suggest that bearded seals may retreat with the receding sea ice to Canada during summer or possibly spend the summer along the West Greenland coast. It is also possible that, due to seasonal changes in bearded seal vocal behavior, animals may have been present in our study area in summer, but silent. The number of detections was affected by the timing of sea ice formation but not sea ice concentration. Diel patterns were consistent with patterns found in other parts of the Arctic, with a peak during early morning (0400 local) and a minimum during late afternoon (1600 local). While vocalization studies have been conducted on bearded seals in Norwegian, Canadian, northwest Greenland, and Alaskan territories, this study fills the gap between these areas.

Grounded icebergs as maternity denning habitat for polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in North and Northeast Greenland

Laidre, K.L., and I. Stirling, "Grounded icebergs as maternity denning habitat for polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in North and Northeast Greenland," Polar Biol., 43, 937-943, doi:10.1007/s00300-020-02695-2, 2020.

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1 Jul 2020

This study provides the first documentation of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) maternity denning in snowdrifts around icebergs frozen into the fast ice or grounded on the seafloor. Based on six den observations in north and northeast Greenland during spring surveys in 2018 and 2019 (109 flight hours), together with observations of 20 adult females with 35 cubs of the year (COYs) in adjacent sea ice, we hypothesize that the use of snowdrifts around icebergs for maternity denning is an established behavior in the region and not a random event. Factors influencing maternity denning in snowdrifts around icebergs may include limited suitable drifts on the nearby terrestrial polar desert due to low precipitation, the presence of suitable wind-blown snow banks regardless of the direction of autumn storm winds, cold and stable habitat throughout the winter denning period, and access to ringed seal (Pusa hispida) pupping habitat in the nearby Northeast Water polynya. This type of maternity denning habitat is only available in glaciated regions of the Arctic where marine-terminating glaciers deposit mélange large enough to become grounded offshore and remain in place for months or years. This habitat may become less stable or disappear with long-term climate warming.

Variability in fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) occurrence in the Bering Strait and southern Chukchi Sea in relation to environmental factors

Escajeda, E., K.M. Stafford, R.A. Woodgate, K.L. Laidre, "Variability in fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) occurrence in the Bering Strait and southern Chukchi Sea in relation to environmental factors," Deep Sea Res. II, EOR, doi:0.1016/j.dsr2.2020.104782, 2020.

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4 May 2020

Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) are common summer visitors to the Pacific Arctic, migrating through the Bering Strait and into the southern Chukchi Sea to feed on seasonally-abundant prey. The abundance and distribution of fin whales in the Chukchi Sea varies from year-to-year, possibly reflecting fluctuating environmental conditions. We hypothesized that fin whale calls were most likely to be detected in years and at sites where productive water masses were present, indicated by low temperatures and high salinities, and where strong northward water and wind velocities, resulting in increased prey advection, were prevalent. Using acoustic recordings from three moored hydrophones in the Bering Strait region from 2009–2015, we identified fin whale calls during the open-water season (July–November) and investigated potential environmental drivers of interannual variability in fin whale presence. We examined near-surface and near-bottom temperatures (T) and salinities (S), wind and water velocities through the strait, water mass presence as estimated using published T/S boundaries, and satellite-derived sea surface temperatures and sea-ice concentrations. Our results show significant interannual variability in the acoustic presence of fin whales with the greatest detections of calls in years with contrasting environmental conditions (2012 and 2015). Colder temperatures, lower salinities, slower water velocities, and weak southward winds prevailed in 2012 while warmer temperatures, higher salinities, faster water velocities, and moderate southward winds prevailed in 2015. Most detections (96%) were recorded at the mooring site nearest the confluence of the nutrient-rich Anadyr and Bering Shelf water masses, ~35 km north of Bering Strait, indicating that productive water masses may influence the occurrence of fin whales. The disparity in environmental conditions between 2012 and 2015 suggests there may be multiple combinations of environmental factors or other unexamined variables that draw fin whales into the Pacific Arctic.

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In The News

Beluga whale sighted off San Diego coast mystifies scientists

National Geographic, Jason G. Goldman

A beluga whale has been sighted off the coast of southern California. Kristin Laidre is asked to speculate how and why it was found thousands of miles from its native range.

10 Jul 2020

Polar bears are getting thinner and having fewer cubs

CNN, Scottie Andrew

The impact of the climate crisis is becoming more and more obvious to humans and their animal neighbors. But among all species, polar bears might be some of the hardest hit.

14 Feb 2020

Polar bears in Baffin Bay skinnier, having fewer cubs due to less sea ice

UW News, Hannah Hickey

Polar bears are spending more time on land than they did in the 1990s due to reduced sea ice, new University of Washington-led research shows. Bears in Baffin Bay are getting thinner and adult females are having fewer cubs than when sea ice was more available.

12 Feb 2020

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