2012-2013 Science Planning Summaries
U.S. Antarctic Program - Science Support Section United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
The demographic consequences of environmental variability and individual heterogeneity in life-history tactics of a long-lived Antarctic marine predator
At Big Razorback, a mother and pup Weddell seal exit a tide crack using an access hole that has been enlarged by the mother. Photo Credit: Jay Rotella. 

Program Manager:
Dr. Diana Nemergut


ASC POC/Implementer:
Addie Coyac / Cara Sucher

Dr. Jay Rotella (Principal Investigator)
http://www.montana.edu/rgarrott/antarctica/index.htmExternal Non U.S. Government Site

Montana State University Bozeman
Bozeman, Montana

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  Big Razorback Camp / Crary Lab

Project Description:
Since 1968 this group of researchers has studied a breeding population of Weddell seals (a prominent Antarctic apex predator associated with fast ice) in Erebus Bay. Using data synthesis and modeling techniques researchers can evaluate a variety of hypotheses regarding effects of environmental variation on life-history evolution and population dynamics. Researchers are also interested in the influence of physical drivers on ecosystem dynamics from the bottom-up, so their field studies include collecting data on seal body mass – a surrogate for annual variation in marine food resources. The study’s broad objective is to evaluate how temporal variation in the marine environment affects a long-lived mammal’s population dynamics.

Field Season Overview:
Eight participants will deploy to McMurdo and then to their field camp at Big Razorback Island. All pups born within Erebus Bay will be marked during the early field season (October-November) with a smaller effort to mark adults that have not been marked previously. After pupping is finished, the team will conduct population-wide surveys of marked and unmarked seals in Erebus Bay. A sample of adults and pups will be physically weighed, tissue sampled, and 40-day temperature loggers will be deployed on a small number of pups. These data will be correlated with a variety of maternal traits and environmental metrics. The field team will use helicopter support for population counts and reconnaissance flights over the study area and to look for tagged seals outside our study area.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Thierry Chambert (Team Leader)
  • Jesse DeVoe
  • Jessica Farrer
  • Robert Garrott (Co-PI)
  • Eric Johnston
  • Jason Jones
  • Mary Lynn Price
  • Darren Roberts
  • Jay Rotella (PI)

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Curator: Esther L. Hill PhD, Antarctic Support Contract   |   NSF Official: Alexandra Isern, Office of Polar Programs