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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

The polar regions in a 2°C warmer world

Post, E., and 14 others including K.L. Laidre, "The polar regions in a 2°C warmer world," Sci. Adv., 5, doi:10.1126/sciadv.aaw9883, 2019.

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4 Dec 2019

Over the past decade, the Arctic has warmed by 0.75°C, far outpacing the global average, while Antarctic temperatures have remained comparatively stable. As Earth approaches 2°C warming, the Arctic and Antarctic may reach 4°C and 2°C mean annual warming, and 7°C and 3°C winter warming, respectively. Expected consequences of increased Arctic warming include ongoing loss of land and sea ice, threats to wildlife and traditional human livelihoods, increased methane emissions, and extreme weather at lower latitudes. With low biodiversity, Antarctic ecosystems may be vulnerable to state shifts and species invasions. Land ice loss in both regions will contribute substantially to global sea level rise, with up to 3 m rise possible if certain thresholds are crossed. Mitigation efforts can slow or reduce warming, but without them northern high latitude warming may accelerate in the next two to four decades. International cooperation will be crucial to foreseeing and adapting to expected changes.

Influence of occupation history and habitat on Washington sea otter diet

Hale, J.R., K.L. Laidre, M.T. Tinker, R.J. Jameson, S.J. Jeffries, S.E. Larson, and J.L. Bodkin, "Influence of occupation history and habitat on Washington sea otter diet," Mar. Mammal Sci., 34, 1369-1395, doi:10.1111/mms.12598, 2019.

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27 Mar 2019

Habitat characteristics are primary determinants of nearshore marine communities. However, biological drivers like predation can also be important for community composition. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris ssp.) are a salient example of a keystone species exerting top‐down control on ecosystem community structure. The translocation and subsequent population growth and range expansion of the northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) in Washington State over the last five decades has created a spatio‐temporal gradient in sea otter occupation time and density, and acts as a natural experiment to quantify how sea otter population status and habitat type influence sea otter diet. We collected focal observations of sea otters foraging at sites across the gradient in varying habitat types between 2010 and 2017. We quantified sea otter diet composition and diversity, and long‐term rates of energy gain across the gradient. We found that sea otter diet diversity was positively correlated with cumulative sea otter density, while rate of energy gain was negatively correlated with cumulative density. Additionally, we found that habitat type explained 1.77 times more variance in sea otter diet composition than sea otter cumulative density. Long‐term diet studies can provide a broader picture of sea otter population status in Washington State.

Variation in non-metrical skull traits of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and relationships across East Greenland and adjacent subpopulations (1830–2013)

Wiig, Ø., P. Henrichsen, T. Sjøvold, E.W. Born, K.L. Laidre, R. Dietz, C. Sonne, and J. Aars, "Variation in non-metrical skull traits of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and relationships across East Greenland and adjacent subpopulations (1830–2013)," Polar Biol., 42, 461-474, doi:10.1007/s00300-018-2435-x, 2019.

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1 Mar 2019

Knowledge of subpopulation identity including substructure is a prerequisite for sound management of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). It is not known whether the present catch of polar bears in the East Greenland subpopulation (EG) is sustainable. We used the Mean Measure of Divergence (MMD) to examine geographical variation in non-metrical traits from 1414 polar bear (Ursus maritimus) skulls collected in East Greenland (EG), Svalbard (SVA), Franz Josef Land (FJL), Davis Strait (DS), Baffin Bay (BB), and Kane Basin (KB), between 1830 and 2013. We focused on East Greenland with the goal of examining substructuring in the subpopulation. We did not find significant differences among samples across four areas of the EG subpopulation (i.e., offshore Fram Strait, NE, SE, and SW Greenland) using data from 1830 to 1983. Our analyses did not lend support to substructuring. However, we draw our conclusions with caution because skulls were sampled over a long time period and had low power due to small sample sizes. Also, comparisons were limited to pre-1980s skulls. The decrease in sea ice in EG since the 1990s due to climate change may have led to substructuring not detected with MMD. This study contributes to the current efforts by Greenland authorities to quantify connectivity of polar bears between southeast and northeast Greenland which is important information for the evaluation of the sustainability of the catch of bears from the EG subpopulation.

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In The News

Outlook for the polar regions in a 2 degrees warmer world

UW News

A comprehensive report represents the efforts of an international team of 15 authors, including Kristin Laidre, who served as the team’s expert on Arctic marine mammals, bringing together the recent literature on profound changes observed related to species and populations, and linking them to other physical and biological components.

4 Dec 2019

How polar bear guards protect the largest Arctic expedition ever

PBS Nova, Katherine J. Wu

A glimpse into the lives of the MOSAiC mission’s polar bear guards — and the powerful predators they watch for. Since mid-October, Polarstern has been moored into an ice floe that’s creeping past the North Pole at about 4 miles per day. Over the next year, some 300 scientists will reside on the ship in 2-month rotations. They’ll anchor encampments and equipment directly into the floe, sampling everything from the air swirling miles above the ice to the microscopic sea life teeming thousands of feet below.

21 Nov 2019

DNA confirms a weird Greenland whale was a narwhal-beluga hybrid

Science News, Tina Hesman Saey

Kristin Laidre comments that it's impossible to say whether this hybrid is the only one because people observe these whales in the remote Arctic so infrequently.

20 Jun 2019

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Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center