Translocations: Science with some Plot Twists

The anticipation I felt was more than I expected—every couple of hours I was logging into the Argos system database to check the latest satellite hits. Where were my seals going?

Earlier that day:

As a first-year graduate student in The Costa Lab at UC Santa Cruz, I was conducting my first field experiment with juvenile elephant seals (research performed under NMFS permit #19108 and IACUC approval).

Arriving just as the sun is rising at Año Nuevo Reserve to pick up two juvenile elephant seals for my translocation study. Each seal will be placed in the cages shown to facilitate transporting it and to keep both the seal and researchers safe.

After finding two healthy juveniles that had not yet started to molt, we safely got them into the cages and brought them back to Long Marine Lab at UCSC’s Coastal Science Campus. There, the seals were instrumented with heat flux biologgers that were custom-built by Wildlife Computers (Redmond, WA) following an earlier heat flux biologger designed and built by Dr. Markus Horning and used by his graduate student Kate Willis on Steller sea lions at the Alaska SeaLife Center. These Wildlife Computers biologgers were originally built for a research project on Weddell seals in Antarctica, but we refurbished and reconfigured them for my project.

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