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Alyson Fleming
(Graduate Student)
Email: ahflemin @ ucsd.edu
Phone: (858) 534-3579
Fax: (858) 822-0562
Address: 9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California 92093-0218

Aly is a 4th year doctoral student in biological oceanography. She received a B.S. from Tufts University in 2004 where she majored in biology and environmental studies. While there, she conducted independent research on cetacean distribution and relative abundance on Stellwagen

Bank National Marine Sanctuary. After graduating, she worked as the Voyage Coordinator for the non-governmental organization Ocean Alliance and then traveled to New Zealand to help with fieldwork on population genetics of bottlenose dolphins at the University of Auckland. After some extended traveling, she returned to the United States and helped with the teaching of introductory biology lab and lecture courses at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is currently studying cetacean population structure and its applications to management. She has been working on a global status review of humpback whales under the Endangered Species Act and is excited to combine conservation and policy in her thesis research.
Proposed Research:

My thesis research explores how interpretation of cetacean population structure may change when viewed over multiple temporal scales and ecologically-relevant spatial scales. Though cetacean species are highly mobile, tagging, genetic and morphological data have revealed strong population structuring for many species, even in the absence of clear genetic differentiation. Ignorance of this population structure has complicated attempts to accurately estimate abundance, detect population trends and assess demographics. This greatly reduces the ability to ask further biological and ecological questions and significantly impairs management efforts.

My research will include a) an examination of diet variability in a single population of humpback whales and the utility of stable isotope signatures in identifying populations of this species, b) habitat characterization of Dall’s porpoise to examine patterns of distribution and habitat preferences and potential distinction of populations and c) a comparison of humpback whale population structure in the North Pacific identified by evolutionary versus ecological metrics. Additionally, I will examine the process of evaluating an endangered species recovery status, from the biological information needed to the policy decisions that are made and how interpretation and understanding of population structure plays a role in this evaluation.

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Updated October 7, 2010
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