Marielle AbaloMAbalo

Biology and Society Ph.D. Program
School of Life Sciences Graduate Program
PO Box 874601
Tempe, AZ 85287-4601


The main goal of my academic work is driven by the following question: How can we use current cultural and ecological knowledge to mitigate human-environment conflicts, especially in ecologically protected areas? My interests lie in human-environment interactions, with a focus how anthropogenic impacts potentially alter animal behavior. My current study organism/system are Galápagos Sea Lions (Zalophus wollebaeki) within the Galápagos Islands archipelago in Ecuador and California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) within Baja California islands of Mexico.

Sea lions are incredibly gregarious and behaviorally-complex animals, and pose an interesting research challenge due to their amphibious lifestyle as marine mammals. I seek to understand their social structure and behaviors at the terrestrial level, and deconstruct human perceptions and interactions of local sea lion populations. Spatial analysis techniques provide a great way to integrate ecological and cultural data and even offer predictions to help make future conservation decisions.  Overall, my main long-term goal is to help reconcile human welfare with environmental conservation by helping people identify long-term and short-term subsistence goals.


Having had a coastal upbringing on the West Coast of Africa, I’m motivated and challenged by international and diverse research situations and dilemmas- specifically in Spanish-speaking and French-speaking countries. While completing my B.S. in Biology at Davidson College, I began working with sea lions in the Galapagos, Ecuador. While attending the M.S. in Geography program at the University of Georgia, I further pursued this project to understand Galapagos sea lion grouping behavior and potential anthropogenic impacts on group size and composition. Having also explored additional research sites in Latin America, I am excited to document California Sea Lions throughout their geographic range as well, while tackling the issue of how marine mammal sociality is best defined and explained.