Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pup buds

I just can't help it.

It may be better to view video here (larger and can change quality).

Footage taken under NMFS permit no 17236.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Out the Front Door

Before preceding on to the photos for the day (sorry, spaced yesterday...I was trying to learn maximum likelihood and my brain was about to explode), I wanted to share a couple of blogs from other scientists down here (these are all folks that I have met down here) doing other scienc-y things:

Bromine research (seriously? yes, and its awesome):

Fish physiology (how does anything survive in these frigid water?):

More on our weddell seal project:

And a recent article published in the Antarctic Sun:

Pizza delivery

Actually a recon trip to find any seals we have been missing (hidden behind pressure ridges or glaciers)

20 day weight!!  This is the first pup we tagged this season in the mass we have a birth weight and a mid-lactation weight...60 lbs to 145 lbs!!  (This pup is Eric's pal...born almost on his birthday, and the first pup Eric tagged ever)

Bagging a pup for weighing...pretty amazing we can work so easily around a 1000 pound momma with very sharp teeth
All Weddell seal images obtained under NMFS Permit No. 17236

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Because Everyone Loves Penguins

A pack of emperors were marching by Inaccessible Island today, so your Sunday begins with PENGUINS....

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The First Swimmer

The first swimmer pup we've seen this season!!  It typically takes about 10 days before the pup starts swimming, often encouraged by the mother to do so.  This pup had just got out of the water from a good swim with mom (it seemed to me that mom actually pushed the pup up and out of the hole, but I didn't have my camera at that moment to capture it).  Here, mom is busy enlarging a hole for the pup to get in and out you will witness towards the end of the clip!!

It may be better to view this video here (larger and can change the quality).

Video taken by Jesse DeVoe under NMFS Permit No. 17236

Thursday, October 25, 2012

When Ice Collides


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Thanks Kate's Real Food for the much needed, and delicious, calories!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In Any Weather...

...they give birth

...and in (almost) any weather...we tag them.

All Weddell seal images obtained under NMFS Permit No. 17236

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Taggin' the Pup

New pup, asleep on the ice.  Amazing this sack of bones can stay warm, but its perfectly at home here.
Weddell seal images obtained under NMFS Permit No. 17236
Loading the pliers...(Jess and Eric)
Taggin' the pup
Blue tags, smiley pup!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day Off #1

The past few days, we have rotated people through some days off, two at a time, so work can continue on the seals, but give everyone a break.  It's easy to overwork yourself with the seals.  It's kind of a dangerous combination of extremely enjoyable work that is very fatiguing, so you can really wear yourself down without realizing it.  So Darren and I went to McMurdo for some R & R.  So today, I continue the Crary Lab tour (where the seal skull was, if you remember), and bring you to the aquarium, where experiments are in action on various marine critters.
Urchin experiments predominate this view (in the blue tank on the left, and larvae soon to be in the white buckets with very colorful tubage). 
Collecting urchin eggs (dark yellow mass at bottom).  Sperm is also collected to fertilize the eggs.  The larvae are then used to assess the affects of CO2 on development.  
Urchin in ice...they like it cold down here.
Urchin collection
These urchin experiments are being conducted to assess the impacts of rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and thus the oceans.  The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen dramatically since the industrial revolution, and there is much concern about the impacts of this increase.
Other critters in the lab.  I'm not a marine guy, so when people tell me the names of  these species, I typically can't remember.  These eely things are cool though.
Tub o Fish

The Touch Tank.  I never actually see people touching the animals in here, but I do.  It's a wonderful little representation of some of the diverse life found in McMurdo Sound.

This guy is just a bit smaller than my fist.
Creepy-awesome sea spider.  Touching this guy is freaky but I'm sure its harmless.  Otherwise it wouldn't be in the touch tank, right?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Taggin' and Headbaggin'

Today was a fairly steady pup tagging day.  It seems that Turks Head is the place for pregnant moms this season, as it seems to be the most hapupenin' colony.  Spent a wonderful day with Darren Roberts and co-PI (principal investigator...the boss) Jay Rotella tagging pups and retagging adults (for those that have lost tags or need tags)

Found this little pup, probably the smallest I've seen...maybe 40 pounds?  Average weight of most pups is probably around 70 pounds.  Mom is not a big mom either.  So who is more successful in life?  Smaller pups?  Bigger pups?  Weddell seal images obtained under NMFS Permit No. 17236
Watch out for sea ice monsters!
This is how we tag adults, using a head bag restraining method, which helps us to quickly and efficiently tag them without causing them too much stress.  Darren Roberts on the reigns, Jay Rotella tagging the rear flippers.
Sniff Sniff

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The View Outside

This is our view from the little window in the Center of Excellence.  A mighty fine, if not excellent, place to do your business.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Quick Pup For You

Mom and pup, Hutton snow cliffs in the background.  See how big and fat mom is?  See how small and skinny the pup is?  Stay tuned, and in, well, about 35 days, things will be astonishingly different.

Weddell seal images obtained under NMFS Permit No. 17236
Anyone for a caption contest?  What is he thinking right now?

Lunch in Antarctica.  We are hiding behind our snowmachines from the finger and nose numbing wind.  Sometimes the wind blasts with no flying snow or ice particles, and other days, with the same speed of wind...a no-vis, full-out, condition one blizzard
Back in camp, reviewing aerial maps and noting major cracks to solidify in everyone's brains where the dangers are.
Cracks on a Map.  Artwork by B-009. (for sale: $100 each...I'm joking of course...probably have to make that clear for NSF)

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Tagging a new pup (Thierry supervising on left, Eric watching and learning from Jess, who is tagging the seal, and Darren keeping an eye on the mom) - All Weddell seal images obtained under NMFS Permit No. 17236
Thus far this season, we have tagged 70 new pups, and in any condition you could dream of, except tropical.  We are on the up-curve of the pupping rampage, which means that every day from here until, say, early to mid November, more and more moms are appearing on the ice and giving birth.  It's a fascinating event to watch; the writhing, wiggly bag-o-bones pup endures any and all conditions that Antarctica throws at it, and the mom seems to just lay there passively, patiently next to the pup to nurse, never leaving its side.  In about 35 days, that will all change, and the pup's perspective on life will alter drastically!

Getting the birth weight.  We will also get a mid-lactation and a weaning weight to track the pups mass gain from the mom (Jason and Eric weighing, Jess in background)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Catch Up Medley

We are working in one of the most remote places in the world, and, as of today, we have high speed internet in our little field camp of that is incredible.  My absence in posting is due to this lack of internet (which hasn't been a bad thing to me!, but, I hope, dear reader, you understand and have been patient).  So this post, is to recap the week of absence, and bring Antarctica right back to you.  
Continued drilling of cracks to find safe routes across was a general theme earlier this week.

Captain Thierry demonstrating proper tagging technique...preparing the crew for hard days of collecting lots of data
And Thierry (left) and Eric (right) about to put the technique into practice.  The pupping season began only about 5 days ago...starting out with a few new pups here and there, until today, where we tagged about 30 new pups.
Jason becoming adept at data input in the field.  Part of being a biologist is proper data management, and the seal team has it down to
Darren (left) looking pretty awesome (Thierry in background)

Pressure ridge course taught by FSTP (Field Safety Training Program, or "F-stop"), a crew of mountain guides dedicated to helping scientists do their work in any terrain.
Emp Pengy - first of the season to wander by.  Groups of these penguins can be seen aimlessly wandering, far from any open water.  I don't think anyone has any idea what becomes of them.
The complacent Weddell (All Weddell seal images obtained under NMFS Permit No. 17236)
Each day, more and more females are arriving at the colonies.  Most are VERY BIG, soon to deliver a little bag of bones pup.
Seals at Big Razorback, our huts in background
Big Razorback colony, with Mt Erebus in background