Melinda Fowler at UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Lab, CA--The elephant seals are returning after their post-breeding foraging trip. The adult females must recover the mass lost after having a pup and nursing it for 27 days. She heads to sea to build up her fat reserves and then returns to Ano Nuevo to molt--grow new hair and skin. The females who left the beach in late January are already hitting the beach again. It seems like only a short time since they left, but it's been about 2 months since they left. We've recovered 3 so far, and 20 to go!!
Molly McCormley at UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Lab, CA--Today’s day in the life blog is about weaners! Weaners are what we call pups after they have been weaned. In just a few short weeks they have gone from around 75 pounds to 300 pounds!
Molly McCormley at UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Lab, CA--As the females nurse their pups, they slowly become skinner and skinner until they look like a completely different seal! Females loose about 35 percent of their body weight during the breeding season! These are the skinny females!
Molly McCormley at UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Lab, CA—Alpha males are the KINGS of the elephant seals! They have not only survived, but have become the most successful males of their species. Considering that only 1 in 10 males will ever become alpha, these guys are rockstars!
Patrick Robinson at Signy Island--After completing most of the science work for the expedition, the ship stopped at Halley Station (a British research base on the Brunt ice shelf) to pick up about 25 people and drop off supplies for the folks who will remain there during the winter. This station is unique because it is built on a thick ice shelf rather than land. The buildings must be raised on stilts to prevent the inevitable accumulation of snow from burying them over the course of several years.
Patrick Robinson at the Eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica--Yesterday, we were in search of our 10th and final seal and found an ice floe with several seals. We prepared our gear and went out onto the ice to get a closer look. Unfortunately, the seals were a bit too young for our study (we are tagging adult animals). So, we hiked back to the ship and continued our search. We continued scanning through binoculars from the bridge for the remainder of the day, but saw only crabeater seals.
Patrick Robinson at the Eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica--We tagged three additional Weddell seals yesterday to bring our total up to nine and the seals are already sending us interesting data. The seals have already collected more than four times the number of CTD profiles collected by the ship! Here is a sample of the various data sent back to us from the tags:
Molly McCormley at UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Lab, CA—Undergraduate interns can be some of the most fascinating biological creatures to ever encounter. While they tend not to be very shy, their lives are so complicated, that it’s hard to keep up with one long enough to really understand what is going on in their mind! Fortunately for us, we were able to corner one long enough to get an up close and personal look into their lives.
Patrick Robinson at the Eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica-- The Weddell seal tagging is off to a great start. We have been quite busy over the past 2 days and have already deployed 6 of the 10 tags! This is how we do it: After we have located a seal from the bridge of the ship, we assemble a team of people to go out onto the ice. We don our cold-weather gear and bring our tagging supplies to the main deck of the ship. To get to the ice, we have to be lowered by a crane (I will admit, this part is actually quite fun!).
Patrick Robinson in the Eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica--After two weeks of transit and oceanography work, we are now ready to begin searching for Weddell seals. We are in the southeastern Weddell sea in an area where chief scientist Keith Nicholls spotted animals on previous expeditions. Weddell seals prefer areas of dense sea ice over the continental shelf in waters between 400-700 meters depth. The seals spend most of their time in the water diving and foraging, but we are looking for animals that have hauled out on the sea ice to rest.