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
Collaborative Research: Weddell seals as autonomous sensors of the winter oceanography of the Ross Sea

Program Manager:
Dr. Diana Nemergut


ASC POC/Implementer:
Leslie Blank / Cara Sucher

Dr. Daniel Costa (Principal Investigator)

University of California Santa Cruz
Dept of Ecology & Evolutionary Bio
Santa Cruz, California

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  Sea Ice

Project Description:
Recent advances in satellite-linked data logging have made it possible to correlate foraging behavior with environmental variables. These technological advances also enable marine mammals to be used as cost-effective platforms from which to collect detailed oceanographic data on a scale not possible with conventional methods. This project will address two complementary themes: (1) The winter foraging behavior and habitat utilization of the Weddell seal, and (2) the use of oceanographic data collected by the seals to better understand the dynamics of the upper water column of Ross Sea. Using these technologies over two years, researchers will measure animal physiological condition in the austral spring and fall. They can then correlate diving patterns with aerobic capacity and patterns of mass and body condition change.

Field Season Overview:
This is the last field season for this award. Four participants will deploy to recover instruments deployed last field season and to assess the physiological condition of same seals that were assessed then. Specific work sites will depend on ice conditions and seal locations. More than half of the recoveries will likely be concentrated in the colonies in Erebus Bay, as most females tagged in the area were reproductively mature adults that had previously been recorded as breeding there.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Jennifer Burns (Co-PI)
  • Daniel Costa (PI)
  • Kim Goetz

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