Leopard Seal Foraging Ecology and Physiology

We are in the process of preparing for a potential field effort in Antarctica investigating the foraging ecology and physiology of leopard seals! We will update this blog as we move forward, so stay tuned for more details. A bit more detail about our project… The climate of the Antarctic Peninsula is warming, resulting in less sea ice. These environmental changes may be pushing many Antarctic organisms beyond their normal physiological and behavior capabilities. The leopard …

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Early Antarctic explorers in the Ross Sea

As you’ve probably heard in the news,  the Council for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) recently announced the creation of the world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Ross Sea (see press release here). This is, without a doubt, a major success in our efforts to preserve the most pristine marine ecosystem left on Planet Earth, and making sure that the living organisms that inhabit this system are protected from exploitation. The …

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Meet The Onion

No, I’m not talking about myself (although I do have many layers). Work in Antarctica is all fun and full of glamour, except when it gets cold and windy (i.e. all the time). As I have mentioned before, we are conducting a series of necropsies on dead animals that we have to find before they freeze, in order to harvest fresh samples that will later allow our team to grow cells in the lab. It is a sad …

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Warning: This post might contain bloody pictures (Ewww! Gross!)

Biologist are weird creatures. Most people like to stay the heck away from blood, which is more than normal, acceptable and sane. Biologists, however, happen to have to get in bloody messes as part of their job so that science can happen. Let’s recap though. Last time we heard about the adventures of B-267 was last year, and we had successfully finished our field season collecting samples from placentas, dead animals and live animals to …

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We demand more cuteness!!!

Well, calm down! This is scientific blog after all, so we need to set our priorities straight. Science is the reason why we are in McMurdo, under the group name of B-267 (check it out on Twitter and Instagram . I have been trying to tell you how almost cool this project is. What if they actually discover the mechanism that allows seals to shut down circulation to parts of their bodies and the gene that allows that tissue to survive …

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We are scientists, we don’t think our study animals are cute…

Ok, that is a lie. Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddelli) are not only the southernmost breeding mammal in the world, champion divers, excellent animals models to study and much, much more, but they are also extremely cute (and that is the professional opinion of the scientific community). Among the many, many privileges of working with these animals during their breeding season, is the fact that sometimes you run into amazing displays of beauty, such as when it …

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Ok, but what is this project really about?

Try to imagine the following situation: a cheetah in the savannah is chasing a prey and it finally catches it after a while. Exciting, right? (well, at least for the cat). The cheetah exercised so hard, ran so fast to catch that elusive antelope that it now needs to rest and catch its breath again, right? Now, let’s picture the same situation, except the prey is a fish and the predator a seal. There is …

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And there are seals out there

It’s too cold, even for seals… This is the first time I get to be down on the ice this early in the season. And you can feel the difference. While the temperature has been relatively warm for this time of the year, it still is too cold for us, humans with made up insulation. The thermometer right now is marking -23˚C (that is -6˚F for those non-scientist ones), but the wind chill makes the …

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It’s all about the wait…

Five hours in San Francisco airport. Twenty two hours in Los Angeles. Ten hours in Sydney. Five days in Christchurch… But I made it to McMurdo. Despite all the bumps that this trip has had, I am finally in McMurdo, ready to start field work. Wait… Nope. There’s the training! Light vehicle training, medical training, waste disposal training, field safety training (including how to ride helicopters and survive in the sea ice), GPS class, environmental …

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