2017-2018 Science Planning Summaries
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2017-2018 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

The consequences of maternal effects and environmental conditions on offspring success in an Antarctic predator

The consequences of maternal effects and environmental conditions on offspring success in an Antarctic predator


Event Number:
NSF/OPP Award 1640481

Program Manager:
Dr. Christian Fritsen

ASC POC/Implementer:
Jenny Cunningham / Linnah Neidel

Principal Investigator

Dr. Jay Rotella

Montana State University Bozeman
Bozeman, Montana

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Big Razorback and White Islands / Cape Evans / Pram Point / Marble Point / Lewis Bay


The consequences of variation in maternal effects on the ability of offspring to survive, reproduce, and contribute to future generations has rarely been evaluated in polar marine mammals. This is because of the challenges of having adequate data on the survival and reproductive outcomes for numerous offspring born in diverse environmental conditions to mothers with known and diverse sets of traits. This project will evaluate the survival and reproductive consequences of early-life environmental conditions and variation in offspring traits that are related to maternal attributes (e.g. birth date, birth mass, weaning mass, and swimming behavior) in a population of individually marked Weddell seals in the Ross Sea.

Field Season Overview

Researchers will work out of a field camp at Big Razorback Island and will focus on all pupping colonies and haul outs from Cape Evans to Pram Point, and at White Island, Marble Point, and Lewis Bay. They will visit each colony every other day to find, tag, and weigh newborn pups. Pups will be located two more times during maturation for re-weighing. One hundred fifty pups will be sampled each year. The team will also conduct six to eight surveys per season throughout the study area to re-sight tagged individuals, tag unmarked animals, and replace broken or missing tags. Camp put in and reconnaissance flights will be by helicopter; travel between sites will be by snowmobile. Participants will be housed at McMurdo Station for one week before and after their field camp.

Deploying Team Members

  • Kaitlin Macdonald
  • Jay Rotella (PI)
  • Jeremy Schmidt