Elephant Seal Research
As part of the Integrated Marine Observing Systems tracking 'Marine Apex Predators of the Southern Ocean' project, the seal research team has been based down at the Browning Peninsula about three hours Hagg drive from Casey Station.
Living in the Browning hut, this year the team consists of ecologist Dr Iain Field from Macquarie University, Dr Andy Doube the team veterinarian, and French-Australian PhD Cotutelle student Karine Heerah.
While there Iain, Andy and Karine have been out and around the local beaches and wallows looking for seals that have been seen in previous years and for some seals to track over the winter period. Over the past two weeks, a number of previously seen seals have now been sighted again as adults. This is exciting as there are few life history records of adult male southern elephant seals.
They have also been putting out a few tracking devices on some juvenile seals (3 to 4 years old) who weigh around 500 kg. Although the trackers have only been out a short while they already providing some interesting insights into the foraging behaviour of these seals who are diving down to around 1000 m over the Antarctic continental shelf and slope.
It is expected that in the coming months these seals will make a return trip to either Macquarie Island or to Iles Kerguelen/Heard Island, and probably swim over 10,000 km during the winter period.
The team have had great support from the station including field training, transport to and from Browning Hut, technical assistance and catering provisions. It is with satisfaction we can rest easy in the hut each night after a long day with enough good food and vistas to last until departing Casey on V5 and returning to Hobart mid April.