As the autumn turns the trees in the Dales of County Durham into a vivid rainbow of colours, its time for our seal team to load up our field kit, and head out to treeless, windswept islands, where the grey seals gather for their annual breeding season.
This year, we’re off to the Isle of May in Scotland again, to continue our research from last fall; Courtney to continue her studies of grey seal behaviour, using high tech accelerometers to gather detailed, 24/7 data on individual activity budgets. Jodie, our new team member, just starting her 4th year at Durham University for her MBiol studies, will be helping me (Sean) collect more heart rate data from breeding seals. Jodie’s research will focus on quantifying changes in heart rate in relation to behaviour, for example when a female takes exception to a nearby male(!) – and looking for individual differences in those heart rate responses.
Both Courtney and Jodie will be telling you more about their work, and experiences, on the island as we go through the field season. We also hope to introduce you to some of the fascinating behaviours we get to watch the seals engaging in, and try to offer some explanations, though there are always some behaviours that surprise and puzzle us every year!
The team on the way out to the Isle of May