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 am pursuing my PhD 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.