2016 Season Wrap-up!

Well, it has been a little while since we posted our last blog in the field, but now that we are all recovering from our holidays, it is time for a nice wrap up of our latest field season on the Isle of May!

The last few weeks on the island after Sean’s departure near the end of November were much the same as they had been, fairly warm and dry as compared to previous years. While it was a pleasure for the researchers to stay dry, it is unclear to what degree the dry conditions affected the behaviour of our seals. Our hardy weather station anchored to the top of the island performed beautifully despite some of the windier days and should give us better insight into how weather and a changing climate may impact these animals.  Despite the long days, Courtney and Jodie reluctantly returned from the May on December 5th crossing with a beautiful sunset and calm seas on the rib.  Beautiful days like this certainly made it hard to leave it all behind for modern comforts!

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Beautiful winter sunset on the boat back to Anstruther (Photo: CR Shuert)

We had a very productive season again, tagging and observing over 30 females and their pups!  This resulted in just over 320 hours of video footage and many more hours of HR traces on our ladies.  Time to break out the coffee and podcasts to fuel the next few months of work as we decode these data!  Our video footage is used to create activity budgets that help us to estimate how a female allocates her time with our behaviours of interest (see prior ‘Behaviour of the Day’ posts for more information regarding our ethogram) and will further our efforts to characterize and define trade-offs in maternal behaviour and the consequences of individual variability of behaviour.

We also had another very successful year with the accelerometers. Since we did a number of the seals with twice as many tags, we did not have quite as many seals as the previous season.  We will be able to use the torso-mounted data to give a more detailed look at not only the behavioural consequences of personality, but also the energetics behind them. But more on that another time…

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Female sporting a head- and torso-mounted accelerometer in this season’s fashionable blue patch design. (Photo: SD Twiss)

Our colleagues from Abertay and St. Andrews stayed behind on the May for a few weeks after we left to finish off some amazing science with the weaned pups. Check out their blog here.

Now that we have officially begun the new term, more blogs will be coming out over the coming months with some other more in depth discussions of mum-pup behaviours, lactation, and more behaviour of the day posts (though not quite daily anymore). Stay tuned!

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