Dr. Christian Heesch Shares the News of the Return of the Phoca Vitulina

Dr. Christian Heesch enjoys the opportunity to attend lectures at Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. Last spring, he felt fortunate to be able to attend the lecture presented by guest speaker, Jonathan Ping from Pennsylvania State College. The lecture: “What can be done to Encourage the Return of New York City’s Wildlife” was perhaps one of the most interesting he has attended.

This informative lecture discussed in detail the return of native fauna to New York City’s environment after years of being pushed away by the presence of human beings. The fact that these charismatic animals are resurfacing in the city signifies the changes in ecological, environment, and their behavioral changes as well.

Although the lecture covered other examples of wildlife, the main focus presented in the information dealt with the harbor seal. Over 100 years ago the Phoca vitulina practically became extinct to the local waterways of New York City. However, over the past few decades, they have slowly been returning to the foreshores of New York boroughs.

As a result of their return, the Center for the Pinniped Ecology & Cognition started a study of these delightful creatures about five years ago. Through the monitoring of the demographic and behavioral trends of seasonal individuals, C-SPEC has been able to determine that ecological and environmental conditions must have improved.

In addition to their fieldwork, the researchers engaged in studies of cognition and sensory perception in the laboratory. The results of these studies were informative regarding how these abilities operate to negotiate the natural environment.

Since the C-SPEC is fully committed to citizen science and STEM education, they were excited to see the return of the harbor seal in New York’s backyard. Sharing their knowledge through educating the community is an important part of their commitment. The return of the seals, who possess so much character, suggests that conditions that enable their existence have improved in New York City.

This gives everyone hope for the future, as there will always be an interaction between humans and animals. Research and studies contribute to the improvements and conditions that enable the success of all existing life forms in an urban ecosystem.

Although the harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) don’t speak English, they communicate and interact with humans in many other ways. They truly are amazing creatures.

As a marine biologist, Dr. Christian Heesch is delighted when he witnesses the return of an endangered species to his home state of New York. After the lecture, he met up with a few colleagues from his college days, at the local Starbucks. Enjoying the stimulating conversation over a cup of coffee, he passionately shared his opinion of the lecture.