Escuela de Posgrado

Ecology & Conservation of Marine Mammals of the Humboldt Upwelling Ecosystem



This is a residential field-based course in Peru on the biology, anatomy, physiology, ecology, evolution, behavior, population biology, management and conservation of marine mammals, explaining why this group is so important, controversial and interesting.

Students will be provided with comprehensive knowledge on marine mammal ecology with special enphasis on species inhabiting the Humboldt Current Upwelling Ecosystem off the coast of Peru -a developing country with the largest single species fishery in the world.

This is a university-accredited course and is intended for students in the summer vacation and for enthusiastic individuals with keen interest in the marine environment. This course is suitable for MSc., undergraduate students in the last 3 years of study and individuals who want to learn from experts about the ecology and conservation issues of sea lions, fur seals, dolphins, whales, marine otters of the south Pacific Ocean.

This course will take place in Lima and in Punta San Juan. Lima is the capital and largest city of Peru, one of the top mega diverse countries and home of the Cayetano Heredia University, the local host institution.

Punta San Juan (15º22'S, 75º12'W) is a 54 hectare (133 acres) headland located in the town of Marcona 500 km south of Lima. Punta San Juan has been protected for more than 60 years by the Peruvian government for the exploitation of guano, a natural  fertilizer made from seabird droppings.

During 8 full days in the field, students will be exposed to lectures, fieldwork, data collection and analysis on resident marine mammals while being lodged at the oceanfront field station.


By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand concepts of general marine mammal biology and ecology.
  • Design and collect behavioral data on wild populations of marine mammals.
  • Respond critically to marine conservation issues in a developing country with the largest single species fishery.

Plan of Studies


MODULE 1: Humboldt Current Ecosystem
This module will cover basic topics in the abiotic and biotic features of the Humboldt Current Ecosystem off Peru and the major human activities taking place in this locality in the marine realm (i.e., anchoveta fishery, fish meal plants, etc.).

MODULE 2: Topics in Marine Mammal Biology
This module will cover topics on basic biology, ecology, anatomy, physiology, evolution, behaviour and population biology of marine mammals in general with special emphasis on the species living on the coast off the Humboldt Current Upwelling Ecosystem.

MODULE 3: Field projects: design and data collection
This module will cover a different array of methods on how to design and collect data in the field on marine mammals through observation and sample collection in situ.

MODULE 4: Critical thinking: Marine conservation science and policy
This module will cover current issues of concern in marine conservation at a global and local scale (Humboldt Current Ecosystem) through presentation of case studies and group discussions. In this model students will think on how to apply a project in marine mammal conservation in a country like Peru.


Monica Muelbert, PhD.

Dr. Muelbert was born in Brazil and then studied her PhD at Dalhousie University (Canada) on size at weaning in harbor seals. She is currently professor and supervisor at the Postgraduate Program in Biological Oceanography at the Federal University of Rio Grande, Brazil. Monica is founding member of the Latin American Society of Specialists on Aquatic Mammals (SOLAMAC), Ad hoc consultant for Brazil National Scientific Council, member of the Expert Group on Birds and Marine Mammals for the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR-EGBMM), and others.

Patricia Majluf, PhD.

Dr. Majluf was born in Peru and then studied her PhD at University of Cambridge (UK) on reproductive ecology of South American fur seals. She is founder and director of the Centre for Environmental Sustainability at the Cayetano Heredia University (CSA-UPCH) in Lima, Peru. Patricia is founding member of the SOLAMAC, associate research scientist for the Wildlife Conservation Society (20yrs). She has received various grants and awards for marine conservation in Peru (Whitley Fund for Nature, BBVA and others) and has recently been invited to act as PEW fellow.

Bob Brownell, PhD.

Dr. Brownell received his Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo (Japan) and has conducted research on the biology and conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises throughout the world. Dr. Brownell is a Senior Scientist for International Protected Resources with NOAA Fisheries at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in California, USA. Bob has been a member of the U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), President of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, and has published close to 200 scientific papers, book chapters, and management documents on various aspects of whale, dolphin, and porpoise biology, conservation, and management.

Susana Cárdenas-Alayza, MSc.

Ms. Cárdenas-Alayza MSc. degree in Zoology from the University of British Columbia (Canada) with research on prey abundance and population dynamics of South American fur seals. Susana is currently director of the Punta San Juan Project, associate researcher of the CSA-UPCH and Coordinator for Field Programs in Peru for the Chicago Zoological Society. Ms. Cárdenas-Alayza is a current member of the pinniped specialist group for IUCN, member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, and others.



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Escuela de Posgrado
Av. Honorio Delgado 430
Urb. Ingeniería, S.M.P.
Atención sobre Programas
UPCH Campus Central
(51-1) 6197700 Anexo 3435 / 3445
UPCH Campus Miraflores
(51-1) 6269400 Anexo 1111