2013-2014 Science Planning Summaries
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Exploring the vulnerability of Southern Ocean pinnipeds to climate change - an integrated approach

Program Manager:
Dr. Charles Amsler

Event Number: B-225-M

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:  Bull Pass / Convoy Range / Don Juan Pond / Explorers Cove / Garwood Valley / Goodspeed Glacier / Kolich Point / Balham, Lower Marshall, McKelvey, Victoria Valleys / Lake Vanda

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
  • Emily Brault
  • Paul Koch (PI)
  • Jonathan Nye
  • Jillian Pelto

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