Elephant Seal Homecoming Days

Elephant Seals Homecoming Days 2009 - Elephant Seal Trading Cards 2009

In January 2008, a couple of thousand female elephant seals began returning from the far reaches of the North Pacific Ocean to give birth to their pups on the beaches of Año Nuevo State Reserve in Northern California.
To celebrate this amazing migration, we invited the TOPP community to witness and learn about the seals’ 21,000-mile annual journeys during Elephant Seal Homecoming Days, sponsored by TOPP, California State Parks, and California State Parks Foundation.
The tracking of these seals began when researchers from Dan Costa’s lab at the UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Lab attached satellite tags to several female elephant seals during the summer of 2007. For nine months, the seals lived and foraged along the rich edges of the massive eddies that swirl across the North Pacific.
We followed ten named elephant seals back to shore as researchers posted blogs about their arrival, their pup's birth, and tag removal.
When TOPP.org debuted in July 2007, we chose one seal to represent her species and named her Penelope. The other nine seals were given names from their history, or the history of their surroundings. Their names are Myoceen, Mukurma, Isabel, Clara, Cheddar, Coya, Annie, Guadalupe, and Flora. The details of their history were put on their trading cards.
When we tagged 22 new seals in March 2008, Karen Maor's fourth-grade science students at Hillbrook School in Los Gatos, CA named 10 new seals: Tidepool, Steele, Lulu, Isla, Baja, Calie, Nuevo, Pinni, Mirounga and Diel. 
Elephant Seals Homecoming Days was made possible by a grant from the California State Parks Foundation.
Name (click to see my Facebook!) On Beach (on 2/02/08) New Pup (click on the pic to see my pup!) Tag Recovered See My Trading Card
Myoceen I hit the beach at Pierdras Blancas, 1/6/08. Female pup born 1/14/08. Recovered.
Mukurma I arrived at Ano Nuevo Island - 1/22/08 Sadly, no pup for me. Recovered 1/29/08.
Isabel I landed on the beach 1/8/08. Male pup born 1/15/08. Recovered 1/18/08.
Penelope I hit the beach on 1/18/08 Pup born 1/24/08. Recovered 1/29/08.
Clara I arrived at Piedras Blancas! 1/18/08 Male pup born! Recovered 1/28/08.
Cheddar At Pierdras Blancas 1/26/08. Male pup, born between Jan. 18 - 26th Recovered!
Coya I made it to land on 1/18/08! Pup born 1/26/08. Recovered 2/1/08.
Annie Landed 1/26/08! Male pup born! Recovered.
Guadalupe I made it to the beach on 1/19/08! Male pup born! Recovered.
Flora I reached the beach on 1/19/08! Male pup born! Recovered 1/30/08.

FUN FACT: Northern elephant seals were hunted nearly to extinction in the 1880s. They are protected by Mexican and American laws, and have made an amazing comeback, from 100 that survived at Guadalupe Island off Mexico, to more than 160,000 today.- www.whaletimes.org

California State Parks: PORTS (Parks Online Resource for Teachers and Students), Elephant Seal curriculum
Evolutionary history and adaptations of the northern elephant seals of Año Nuevo State Reserve. The highlight of this study unit is a video conference between students and a park ranger. The ranger acts as guide for a virtual tour of the rookery and discusses the evolutionary history and adaptations of elephant seals with students.
Grade level: 7th grade, adaptable for other grades, in English and Spanish

FUN FACT: Northern elephant seals eat squid, octopus, fish and sometimes even small sharks. Southern elephant seals have a similar diet. - www.whaletimes.org

National Park Service: Discovering Northern Elephant Seals
The intent of these guides is to provide middle school students with the opportunity to observe natural processes at Point Reyes National Seashore so they might take a greater interest in environmental stewardship and science. Each guide is carefully designed to facilitate a hands-on learning experience using science and the environment. Natural resources, such as northern elephant seals, are highlighted because they are easy to identify and to observe.
Grade level: 6th -8th grade

FUN FACT: Northern elephant seals migrate farther than any other mammal on earth, and are the only mammals known to make two migrations each year. After the breeding season, they migrate to feeding grounds in the northern Pacific Ocean. In the summer, they return to the beaches to molt, then migrate back to feeding areas until the next breeding season. Every year, they travel about 21,000 miles (33,800 km). - Monterey Bay Aquarium

National Geographic’s Xpeditions: Elephant Seals on the Beach:
Northern elephant seals choose different locations for different activities. Adult seals spend most of their time feeding in the northeastern Pacific, but they come to shore twice a year to breed, give birth, and molt. In this lesson, students will pretend they’ve visited one of the rookery beaches, and draw pictures about their experiences.
Grade Level: K-2

FUN FACT: The male’s large nose is a secondary sexual characteristic. Large body size, large nose, and a deep booming voice sometimes serve to intimidate challengers, so that energy-depleting fights can be avoided.- Friends of the Elephant Seal

California State University at Monterey Bay: : Elephant Seals
A rich site developed by Prof. Henrik Kibak for teachers interested in presenting biology topics using elephant seals as a theme. Exercises, references, and many pictures make this an excellent resource. Focus is on the Ano Nuevo rookery.
Grade Level: High School

FUN FACT: Males can live 14 years; females, 20. But only a few live that long. Only one in seven pups lives to 4 years old. - Friends of the Elephant Seal

Santa Barbara Community College: Marine Science Course by Genny Anderson
The link is to her section on elephant seals, but the site has a wide range of resources on all aspects of marine science.
Grade level: High School

University Research Support for High School Science Teachers
A National Science Foundation and CSU Monterey Bay sponsored curriculum based on elephant seal studies. These short Quicktime and MPEG video clips about elephant seal curriculum are here to support your teaching. Grade level: K-12

FUN FACT: Male elephant seals compete for females during breeding season, from December through March. The strongest, most aggressive male generally has access to more females. They compete for the females through visual and vocal threats, and occasionally physical battles. - www.whaletimes.org
Elephant Seal Tagging: Yesterday and Today. While tagging in Año Nuevo in 2006, TOPP researcher Dan Costa recalls his early days of studying elephant seals.
Elephant seal tagging team 2007. Interviews with team members.
FUN FACT: Once each year, in the summer, elephant seals come ashore and shed the first layer of skin and their fur. The skin and fur come off in sheets as new skin and fur replace the old. - Monterey Bay Aquarium

Año Nuevo State Reserve:
Site of the largest mainland breeding colony in the world for the northern elephant seal, the reserve’s interpretive program has attracted thousands of people on guided tours every winter for the last 19 years. The males battle for mates on the beaches and the females give birth to their pups on the dunes. People who hope to see the seals during the winter breeding season are urged to get their reservations early.

FUN FACT: Northern elephant seals can stay underwater for 40 minutes, sometimes longer. They normally dive 1,000 to 2,000 feet, but can go as deep as 5,000 feet. When they dive, they swim only for the first one hundred feet, coast for the remainder and sometimes nap on the way down. - http://www.whaletimes.org/whaelsl.htm

Friends of the Elephant Seal:
This non-profit organization educates people about elephant seals and other marine life and teaches stewardship for the ocean off the central coast of California.

The Marine Mammal Center:
Founded in 1975, The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured, sick and orphaned marine mammals (seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, whales and sea otters) along a 600 mile stretch of California coastline, from Mendocino County through San Luis Obispo County.

Seal Conservation Society:
With ever-increasing threats from sources such as pollution, over-fishing, marine debris, entanglement in fishing gear and intentional killing, pinnipeds worldwide have a greater need than ever for protection. The Seal Conservation Society helps with that protection by promoting the conservation, welfare and study of the 33 living pinniped species.

FUN FACT: With all that blubber, elephant seal bodies are designed to keep warm in cold water. On land, sand flipping helps them keep cool; they also flip sand when they’re under stress.- Friends of the Elephant Seal

Where is Cheddar?

Tagging elephant seals

A Seal's Life - The Story of the Northern Elephant Seal

From Wharton Media.
How a male elephant seal protects his harem.

From BBC Worldwide.