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Seminar to Focus on Deep-Diving Seals that Collect Ocean Data

A public seminar at Old Dominion University's Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography (CCPO) on Monday, March 15, will focus on deep-diving seals that are being used to collect data for climate and ecology research.

John Klinck, the director of CCPO, will present the seminar beginning at 3:30 p.m. in Room 3200 of the Research Innovation Building 1 in University Village. There is no charge to attend the seminar or a reception with refreshments that will begin at 3.

Klinck will describe data about seawater salinity, temperature, currents and other characteristics of the waters that are being collected and transmitted by instrumentation attached to crabeater and elephant seals.

He has been involved in a project that is using data from conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) recorders on seals that foraged along the western Antarctic Peninsula in recent years. Eileen Hofmann, who also is an ODU oceanographer and CCPO affiliate, has worked with him on the project. Other collaborators are from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

The data can reveal a lot about the foraging ecology and biology of the seals, and also has shown environmental variability in Antarctic continental shelf regions. This includes identifying and tracking the intrusions of warm circumpolar deep water.

Seals have proven to be valuable research aides, investigating oceanographic processes in areas that are not well sampled by research vessels or buoys. The seal-assisted research in the Antarctic region is even more valuable than it is elsewhere because the animals can take sensors under ice packs where vessels cannot go and where underwater buoys cannot transmit.

Ocean conditions and processes at both polar caps influence global weather patterns and serve as early indicators of climate change. So the more data the seals can gather in the Antarctic region, the more scientists will know about global warming and climate cycles.

This article was posted on: March 12, 2010

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