Rocky the sea lion gave researchers
new insights and delighted visitors to Long Marine Lab. Photo courtesy of Colleen Kastak
November 29, 2004
Long Marine Lab mourns death of Rocky the
By Tim Stephens
Rocky the sea lion, a resident of Long Marine Laboratory for
almost 20 years, died peacefully on November 9. She was about
28 years old, a ripe old age by sea lion standards.
Rocky gave researchers new insights into sea lion biology and
delighted thousands of visitors to the lab. Ronald Schusterman,
an adjunct professor of ocean sciences who retired in 2003,
began working with Rocky in 1978 and brought her with him when
he came to Long Marine Lab in 1985.
Schusterman's research focused on the sensory and cognitive
abilities of pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). Rocky took part
in the Schusterman lab's landmark studies of sea lion abilities
in the areas of acoustic perception, artificial language comprehension,
associative learning, concept formation, and memory.
Colleen Kastak, a research biologist who earned her Ph.D. with
Schusterman and now helps lead the pinniped research program
at LML, announced Rocky's death in an e-mail to LML faculty
and staff. She said that Rocky's endearing personality left
its mark on all who knew her.
"Rocky captivated children, visitors, students, and scientists
with her grace and good nature," Kastak wrote. "She
patiently taught us not only about her kind but also about ourselves.
She gave us a glimpse of the world as she experienced it. She
influenced those whose lives she touched to be more curious,
more compassionate, kinder, and more patient. She was a remarkable
individual and her life made a difference."
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