Hi, I'm Natalie!
My name is Natalie Mastick, and I am a marine mammal researcher and parasite ecologist based out of Seattle, WA. I began working with marine mammals when I was 17 as a volunteer at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA. Working closely with seals and sea lions at that young age hooked me. I was determined to work towards conserving marine mammals.
I completed my BA in Environmental Studies and my BS in Marine Biology at UC Santa Cruz in 2013. In my time at Santa Cruz I was inspired by the power of telemetry (tag) data. I was floored by how I could see beneath the surface and discover what marine mammals were really doing. I used tag data to analyze the short-term foraging behavior of both northern elephant seals and humpback whales. In 2014 I moved to Oregon to begin my MS in Wildlife Science at Oregon State University under the advisement of Dr. Ari Friedlaender. I earned my MS in 2016, after completing a study analyzing group bubble-net feeding in humpback whales. I then worked for Oceans Initiative as a research associate and field team leader, assisting in numerous studies on shipping noise, dolphin population analysis, and killer whale behavior. Currently, I am a Graduate Fellow in Marine Parasite Ecology with Oceans Initiative and a PhD Candidate at the University of Washington in Dr. Chelsea Wood's lab.
My current research is on parasites and marine mammals. I am studying how parasites have increased in marine mammal prey species over time, and how that may impact marine mammal hosts on an energetic level. While I am interested in this area on a global level, I will mainly be focusing in on the Puget Sound for my dissertation research. I am investigating if resident killer whale prey have become more parasitized using museum specimens to delve back into the Sound’s history. Concurrently, I am assessing how parasitized the southern resident killer whale population is in comparison to healthier resident populations. My overall goal is to tell a story about how parasitism has changed in the Puget Sound over the last century and what implications this has for marine mammal hosts.
My research is motivated by a deep-rooted need to assist in the conservation of wild marine mammals. In my experience, I have had opportunities to work with elephant seals, California sea lions, humpback whales, Pacific white-sided dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, blue whales, fin whales, and killer whales. I have been fortunate to work in beautiful locations like Cape Cod, the San Juan Islands, Southeast Alaska, the Channel Islands, and the Antarctic Peninsula. The more I travel and learn about these species, the more motivated I am to study and alleviate the anthropogenic threats (both direct and indirect) that harm them.