2015-2016 USAP Field Season
The demographic consequences of environmental variability and individual heterogeneity in life-history tactics of a long-lived Antarctic marine predator
Dr. Jay Rotella
Montana State University Bozeman
Project Web Site:
Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
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. Their field studies include collecting data on seal body mass – a surrogate for annual variation in marine food resources. This 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 Station 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. The 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 their study area.
Deploying Team Members