Send me on my way

Well after an amazing four weeks, Sean sadly had to depart the island to get back to his teaching duties. He will be leading a field excursion in the next week for 2nd years to learn how to do behavioural observations on grey seals in the wild. Hayley and I are still holding down the fort on the island, continuing observations on our four tagged girlies (we are up to a total of 18 now!).

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A last view of the island before Sean returned to Durham

It is a bit slower of a pace than we had the last few weeks. At one point, we had 9 females tagged simultaneously, which required some heavy prioritization, logistical scheduling, and running from one side of the island to the other in a day to make sure that we covered each of them sufficiently. With only four at the moment (all of which are fairly closely positioned), the schedule is a bit more predictable as we can reliably get data on all of them in a single day if necessary (and if the weather permits!).

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Helga and her pup. When they are approximately 16-18 days old, pups lose their white coats.

The colony is also quieting down now, with many females departing and weaned pups beginning to form their ‘gangs’. Weaned pups are a particular focus for two of the other PhD students out here from Plymouth University, who are interested in the physiological stress the pups go through after mum leaves and the ways/places the pups forage when they finally do leave the colony. It has been really fascinating to hear about this other branch of research, and we have had some excellent conversations around the dinner/breakfast table about how our collective work ties in together, about future projects and about the multitude of unanswered questions still remaining.

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Some weaned pups remain on the edges of the colony, avoiding females and other adults.

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Others are a bit more ‘curious’ and will approach a researcher sitting quietly in the grass.

So for the next few weeks we will try to get our last few tags deployed, finish running observations and “Rocky” tests on the remaining females, and then like the weaned pups, we will depart this island.

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