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
Exploring the vulnerability of Southern Ocean pinnipeds to climate change - an integrated approach

Program Manager:
Dr. Charles Amsler


ASC POC/Implementer:
Samina Ouda / Jessica Jenkins

Dr. Paul Koch (Principal Investigator)

University of California Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  Calkin, Hobbs, Rhone and Howard Glaciers / Cape Roberts / Dunlop Island / Explorers Cove / Lakes Chad and Fryxell / Marble Point / Miers, Pearse and Salmon Valleys / Mummy Pond / Nussbaum Riegel

Project Description:
This project will investigate the response of seals in the Ross Sea to climate change over the past several thousand years. This work follows on the researcher's recent southern elephant seals project and involves examining the population structure and paleoecology of seal groups in the Ross Sea, past and present. The target species are southern elephant, crabeater, Weddell, and leopard seals, each of which has specific climate, diet and habitat preferences. Researchers will use genetic, isotopic, and chronologic data to develop an integrated understanding of the response of these mammals to major climate cooling that occurred in the Holocene beginning about a thousand years ago. Specific research objectives include locating, sampling, and identifying mummified seal remains in the Dry Valleys region (including coastal Royal Society Range, the Victoria Land Coast, and parts of the Convoy Range). Samples will be returned to the US for ancient DNA, isotopic, and radiocarbon analyses.

Field Season Overview:
Three participants will establish and work out of an independent tent camp in the Dry Valleys. Team members will move the camp once per season. They will make foot traverses and helicopter-supported day-trips from camp to locate and sample mummified seal remains.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Scott Braddock
  • Paul Koch (PI)

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