MIMMP postdoc Chris Oosthuizen in Svalbard, Arctic!

The MIMMP has a long history of conducting research in the sub-Antarctic and Antarctic ecosystems; one of our flagship projects, the demographic study of Marion Island’s southern elephant seal population, is now continuing into its 35th consecutive year. But we are always interested in collaborating with other research teams. For example, Marion Island sealers were represented on all seven of the seal and seabird research expeditions undertaken by the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) at Bouvetøya between 1996/97 and 2017/18. We have less experience of working in the Arctic, but it is within the context of our Bouvetøya collaboration that Chris Oosthuizen (current Marion Island Marine Mammal Programme postdoctoral researcher) recently found himself in the Svalbard Archipelago.

 Spitsbergen is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago (Photo: Chris Oosthuizen)

Spitsbergen is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago (Photo: Chris Oosthuizen)

 Dr Andrew Lowther at the team’s campsite on Midtøya. (Photo: Chris Oosthuizen)

Dr Andrew Lowther at the team’s campsite on Midtøya. (Photo: Chris Oosthuizen)

 Location map of Norway and Svalbard (encircled). (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Location map of Norway and Svalbard (encircled). (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Svalbard is a large archipelago located in the Arctic Ocean north of continental Norway. At 78°N, Longyearbyen on the island Spitsbergen is the northernmost year-round settlement on Earth and only 1300 km from the North Pole. Chris was invited to participate in the Svalbard expedition by Dr Andrew Lowther of the Norwegian Polar Institute, with whom he has worked on Bouvetøya for two summer seasons. Dr Lowther is leading a project investigating the impacts of drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) on marine mammals in terms of disturbance and the use of drones as alternate research platforms. This project aims to provide best practise guidelines regarding the appropriate use of drones around wildlife by developing flight profile standards that are 1) capable of delivering scientific goals and 2) create insignificant levels of disturbance when used in both scientific and a recreational setting. For the work conducted during May and June, the team camped near a harbour seal colony on Midtøya, a small island adjacent to Prins Karls Forland. This is the only harbour seal colony in Svalbard and the northernmost one in the world.

 A drone passes over hauled out harbour seals during behavioural experiments. (Photo: Chris Oosthuizen)

A drone passes over hauled out harbour seals during behavioural experiments. (Photo: Chris Oosthuizen)

Managing for change: Using vertebrate at sea habitat use to direct management efforts

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Another Antarctic fur seal research output from our productive and ongoing collaboration with colleagues from Australia, the UK and USA. Here, Ben Arthur and co-authors put forward data on changing foraging patterns in the species from three Southern Ocean localities (including Marion Island) over several decades, and include some thoughts on management implications.

For the full article please see the following link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1470160X18302735

Bigger is better: heavier seal pups gain a double advantage

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A new study led by MIMMP postdoctoral fellow Chris Oosthuizen and published in the journal Oikos shows that size matters in more than one way for elephant seal pups.

This paper used data collected over a 30-year period to determine the relationship between weaning mass and fitness in elephant seal pups from Marion Island. Pups were marked and weighed at weaning – a considerable task for the sealers in the field given that elephant seal pups weigh 114 kg on average and up to 190 kg at weaning – and then followed through their lives.

 Weaning mass correlated positively with first-year survival (Figure left), but its influence was unimportant for survival of older pre-breeders and breeders. In contrast, a strong positive link persisted between weaning mass and the age of first reproduction, which typically occurs at ages three and four in female elephant seals (Figure right).

Weaning mass correlated positively with first-year survival (Figure left), but its influence was unimportant for survival of older pre-breeders and breeders. In contrast, a strong positive link persisted between weaning mass and the age of first reproduction, which typically occurs at ages three and four in female elephant seals (Figure right).

Heavier female elephant seal pups survived better in early life and started breeding at a younger age than lighter-weaned pups. The importance of weaning mass on early survival has been reported previously, but this paper draws particular attention to the previously unknown influence of weaning mass on the age at first reproduction. This is a noteworthy finding considering that recruitment only occurs several years after weaning, and because pre-recruitment mortality already imposed a strong selective filter on the population. Reproductive parameters such as age of first reproduction typically impact fitness less than survival in long-lived species, but still influences the dynamics of populations through ensuing effects on other traits (e.g., tradeoffs between reproduction and survival). In growing populations, however, early reproduction increases fitness, indicating the importance of taking the timing of reproduction within the life cycle of an organism into account.

Although variation in weaning mass did not translate to permanent survival differences among individuals in adulthood, it explained heterogeneity and positive covariation between survival and breeding in early life, which contribute to between-individual variation in fitness. Mothers that do not allocate sufficient energy to their pups thus risk reducing their own fitness through lower offspring survival and delayed breeding among surviving offspring.

Talk by Prof Nico de Bruyn: Seals and killers in the roaring forties

Join us at The Orbit in Braamfontein on the 27th of February to listen to Prof Nico de Bruyn talk about seals and killers in the roaring forties.

In this talk, Nico de Bruyn will give us a whirl-wind tour of the research that has driven three decades of scientific inquiry into the population dynamics of mammalian marine top-predators and explain how this research has helped to answer questions of global significance from a region experiencing increased environmental change.

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This talk is hosted Science & Cocktails which is an initiative that brings science and entertainment closer together by creating a series of public lectures intertwined with music/art performances and smoky dry-ice chilled cocktails in your hand.

Entrance to the event costs R20. Doors open at 18:30, no admittance after 20:00. For more info go to http://www.scienceandcocktails.org/jozi/2018/MarionIsland.html

See you there!

Mammals moving in the Anthropocene: new paper in SCIENCE

Sometimes a collaboration that started on one topic can turn into something productive on a somewhat different one! A paper published today in the journal Science, on which MIMMP PI, Nico de Bruyn, is a coauthor represents such a case. This paper, led by Marlee Tucker, uses tracking data from multiple terrestrial mammals to show that humans are causing major changes in the way wild mammals move in the landscape.  

Clearly, this terrestrially centered paper does not contain data from our Marion Island marine mammals. It was a collaboration started years ago with Marlee Tucker, using some tracking data from Marion Island seals (not used here), that resulted in Nico's intellectual involvement here. This paper makes for an interesting read and brings to mind the question of how the marine environment might compare........  

New study published on habitat importance for multiple marine predators

 Fig 1 taken from Reisinger et al (2017)  Diversity and Distributions , showing the tracks of 14 species of marine vertebrate predator over a decade.

Fig 1 taken from Reisinger et al (2017) Diversity and Distributions, showing the tracks of 14 species of marine vertebrate predator over a decade.

The distribution of marine predators is driven by the distribution and abundance of their prey; areas preferred by multiple marine predator species should therefore indicate areas of ecological significance. Research collaborator (and past student) of the MIMMP, Dr Ryan Reisinger along with a multinational research team used tracking data from 538 tag deployments on 14 species of marine predators from the Subantarctic Prince Edward islands to identify important habitat. Tracks were modelled as a response to 17 relevant environmental factors to identify such important habitat. The study, recently published in the journal Diversity and Distributions , helps to form the basis of future efforts to predict the consequences of environmental change.

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Tracking locations covered 39.75 million km2, up to 7,813 km from the Prince Edward Islands. Areas of high importance were located broadly from the Subtropical Zone to the Polar Frontal Zone in summer and from the Subantarctic to Antarctic Zones in winter. Such areas of importance were best predicted by factors including wind speed, sea surface temperature, water depth and ocean current speed.

To read the full story go to: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ddi.12702/full

Prof Nico de Bruyn-category winner in a prestigious photographic competition!

Scientists from across the world were asked to submit their photographs for the 2017 Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition. The MIMMP's Principal Investigator, Prof Nico de Bruyn, was awarded the winner of the "Ecology and Environmental Science" category. The MIMMP team would like to congratulate Professor de Bruyn on this prestigious award! Please see the link below for the winning picture.

https://royalsociety.org/~/media/journals/photo-competition/2017-winners/5098.jpg

https://royalsociety.org/journals/publishing-activities/photo-competition/2017-winners-runners-up/

Field assistant positions for Marion Island 2018-2019- CLOSED

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Three field assistant positions (2 x "Sealers" and 1 x "Whaler") are once again available at Marion Island, April 2018 - May 2019. All three positions are embedded within the research programme: "Marion Island Marine Mammals: Individual Variation and Population Processes in Changing Environments"

For instructions and more information:

Mammalogist- Seals

Mammalogist- Killer Whales

Please read the advertisements carefully and follow the application instructions therein.

 An overview documentary of what you might expect in these positions can be                       viewed here and further insight about our science gained by looking at our                           publications. Additional information about the positions and a background to the               programme can be found on our programme history, 'working with us' and                           FAQ pages.

If you want a good idea of what life as a sealer is all about on Marion, consider purchasing a copy of our book - 'Pain forms the Character' 

Inquiries and cover letters may be sent to Ms Kate du Toit (katedutoit@hotmail.com) and cc to the Principal Investigator of this specific project: Prof Nico de Bruyn (pjndebruyn@zoology.up.ac.za).

DEADLINE: 20 November 2017

MIMMP science putting Subantarctic animals on the map!

 Figure 1: From top left going clockwise, the Subantarctic fur seal, Antarctic fur seal, Killer Whale and Southern Elephant Seal.

Figure 1: From top left going clockwise, the Subantarctic fur seal, Antarctic fur seal, Killer Whale and Southern Elephant Seal.

MIMMP scientists have been involved in updating the Mammal Red List for the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). These assessments are vital to assess the conservation status of a particular species. Scientists from the MIMMP were responsible for the assessments of four Subantarctic species, namely, the Antarctic and Subantarctic fur seal, the Southern Elephant Seal and the Killer Whale. Using long-term data gathered over the years by the MIMMP team, scientists are able to determine things such as population size, habitat use, distribution and the overall National Red List Status of each species. This information also provides critical information for future research targets and the state of the species living in the Southern Ocean.

If you would like to read more about the MIMMP Red List species please see the links below:

https://www.ewt.org.za/Reddata/Order%20Carnivora.html

https://www.ewt.org.za/Reddata/Order%20Cetacea.html

MEOP - Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole

 A CTD-SRDL device attached to a southern elephant seal on Marion Island

A CTD-SRDL device attached to a southern elephant seal on Marion Island

MEOP is an unprecedented collaborative effort! It is a consortium of international researchers dedicated to sharing animal-derived data and knowledge about the polar oceans. The MIMMP has been a key player in this global effort. A recent review of this MEOP (Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole) project, published in Oceanography, was spearheaded by MIMMP postdoc, Dr Anne Treasure! https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2017.234 

The physical structure of the polar oceans plays a crucial role in the global ocean and climate system. Nevertheless, the polar seas are notoriously poorly sampled due to difficulties with data collection, such as high costs, logistic issues and rough weather. Marine mammals equipped with biologging devices provide a solution to this problem. The devices, conductivity-temperature-depth satellite relay data loggers (CTD-SRDLs), record location with vertical profiles of conductivity (from which salinity is calculated), temperature and pressure. Since 2002, marine mammals have provided novel observations of polar regions, including areas that are logistically difficult to sample (Fig. 2). In this way, the addition of marine mammals to the global array of ocean profilers (such as traditional Argo floats) provides a powerful and cost-effective means to drastically improve the ocean-observing system for both biological and physical oceanography communities.

 Figure 2: The data density distribution of CTD profiles from the Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole (MEOP)-CTD database.  

Figure 2: The data density distribution of CTD profiles from the Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole (MEOP)-CTD database.  

Instrumented animals have already generated extremely large sets of oceanographic data which are now freely available to the scientific community through the MEOP data portal (http://meop.net). The comprehensive quality-controlled MEOP database contains over 500 000 CTD profiles and is an exceptional resource for both biological and physical oceanographers.

Getting to the tip of the whisker…. Confirming the crustacean-based diet of juvenile southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina

How large is the contribution of crustaceans (krill) to the diet of juvenile southern elephant seals (SES) at the Subantarctic Marion Island?

Whiskers tell us what elephant seals eat.. and when!

 Juvenile southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina from Marion Island. Photo credit Nico Lubcker

Juvenile southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina from Marion Island. Photo credit Nico Lubcker

In this novel paper, we used the nitrogen and carbon stable isotope values measured chronologically along the length of whiskers sampled from juvenile southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina to test the recent suggestion that they “represent a new krill predator within the Southern Ocean” (Walters et al. 2014). Stable isotope analysis is based on the principle ‘you are what you eat’, and we have reconstructed the diet of juvenile SES based on the biomolecule composition of their whiskers. This paper follows from an earlier study that quantified the regrowth rate of the whiskers sampled from the juvenile SES (Lübcker et al. 2017). This first, time-integrated dietary reconstruction of juvenile SES at Marion Island showed that they consumed prey from a lower trophic level than previously assumed.

 Fig. 2. Representation of data indicating the 3 isotopically distinct portions of the vibrissal regrowths collected from juvenile southern elephant seals Miro - unga leonina. Life history events can be distinguished based on δ15N (mean ± SD) measured along the length of the vibrissae. The onset (indicated by the arrow) of the independent foraging (transitioning period) is characterised by a 3.7‰ δ15N depletion and we used only the period representing independent foraging for dietary reconstruction (red box). The solid black line with grey error bands represents the 15N mean ± SD of all the sampled juveniles

Fig. 2. Representation of data indicating the 3 isotopically distinct portions of the vibrissal regrowths collected from juvenile southern elephant seals Miro - unga leonina. Life history events can be distinguished based on δ15N (mean ± SD) measured along the length of the vibrissae. The onset (indicated by the arrow) of the independent foraging (transitioning period) is characterised by a 3.7‰ δ15N depletion and we used only the period representing independent foraging for dietary reconstruction (red box). The solid black line with grey error bands represents the 15N mean ± SD of all the sampled juveniles

The depleted stable isotope values of nitrogen (δ15N) (8.5 ± 0.6‰) measured in their whisker during the independent foraging period confirmed that up to 76% of their diets consisted of crustaceans, presumably Subantarctic krill species. This is contrary to earlier studies which suggested that they consumed mostly lantern fishes and squid. This first utilisation of the isotopic values captured along the length of whisker regrowths confirms the inclusion - and importance - of crustaceans in the diet of juvenile SES and has important implications for their conservation.

Read the full story here:

Marine Ecology Progress Series https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12240

Of Man, seals, cats and mice: Mongabay news commentary

 Feral cats are long gone from Subantarctic Marion Island. Photo: Valdon Smith, courtesy of the Antarctic Legacy of South Africa

Feral cats are long gone from Subantarctic Marion Island. Photo: Valdon Smith, courtesy of the Antarctic Legacy of South Africa

Many Subantarctic islands have historically felt the effects of seal hunters and the purposeful or accidental introduction of alien mammals. Mice, rats, rabbits, cats, goats, sheep, deer, cows... the list goes on, and the effects have often been devastating to native fauna and flora. Given the contemporary understanding of the negative effects of invasive species, many nations have increasingly ambitious eradication programmes. These are wise investments. Read why the Marion Island story is one to learn from at leading enviro-news website: Mongabay.

Elephant seals show remarkable consistency in 3D foraging behaviour!

In a changing ocean environment, would a deep-diving top predator consistently return to specific areas to find food? Would such a predator show consistent diving behaviour over multiple foraging trips? In the face of rapid environmental change, these were questions we were interested in exploring for southern elephant seals at Marion Island, using tracking and diving data spanning several years. 

 A young male southern elephant seal sporting a  SMRU tracking device . Photo: Nico de Bruyn

A young male southern elephant seal sporting a SMRU tracking device. Photo: Nico de Bruyn

Individual-level specialization in forage strategies may confer advantages to individual animals over longer time periods, even though it may also incur shorter-term costs. In a recently published paper in the journal Animal Behaviour, we illustrate long-term (up to 7-year!) fidelity of individual elephant seals to not only their foraging ranges, but also the depth layers targeted during foraging migrations. We hypothesize that the strong fidelity displayed by individual animals may limit the individual-level adaptability of elephant seals to rapid environmental changes. Furthermore, we recommend more long-term longitudinal studies to quantify the influence of individual specialization on our understanding of the population-level ecology of elephant seals, as well as other key predators.

Killer whale social life at Marion Island

 Marion Island killer whale Social Networks.  Reisinger  et al.  2017  Behavioral Ecology

Marion Island killer whale Social Networks. Reisinger et al. 2017 Behavioral Ecology

Killer whales are considered highly social animals, however, social structure has been quantitatively studied in few populations. We have been running a photographic identification programme of killer whales at Marion Island in the Southern Ocean since 2006, and we recently used this dataset to explore how individuals associate with each other and how this correlates with their genetic relatedness. In a new paper published in the journal Behavioral Ecology we show that killer whales at Marion Island have small social modules which are mostly stable over years, but that these can be dynamic over shorter time periods. This may be a response to environmental conditions. The social modules which we identified comprise non-kin as well as kin, in contrast to the highly matrifocal structure in some other killer whale populations.

Kinship and association in a highly social apex predator population, killer whales at Marion Island

Ryan R. Reisinger, Charlene Beukes (née Janse van Rensburg), A. Rus Hoelzel and P.J. Nico de Bruyn

Behavioral Ecology

https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arx034

INTRODUCING 2017/2018 OVERWINTERING SEAL & KILLER WHALE FIELD PERSONNEL

The 'new' killer whale and seal field scientists for the 2017/18 13-month long expedition to Marion Island are into their first month alone since the ship departed back to RSA with all the Takeover - and previous expedition team members.

Yinhla Shihlomule is back for a 2nd year as sealer, being joined by Andre van Tonder and Rowan Jordaan for the year.

The 2017 5-week Relief voyage (Takeover) ended a WEEK ago, with the SA Agulhas II bringing home the 2016/2017 killer whale and seal field personnel, Nasreen Khan, Kyle Lloyd and Sydney Tshilingalinga (the latter two will be taking on PhD and MSc degrees respectively, at the University of Pretoria with Principal Investigator, Nico de Bruyn).

 ENJOY THE YEAR YINHLA, ANDRE AND ROWAN!

 L-R: Andre van Tonder, Rowan Jordaan and Yinhla Shihlomule are the M74 SEALERS!! (Rowan is also responsible for the killer whale work). Photo: Nico de Bruyn

L-R: Andre van Tonder, Rowan Jordaan and Yinhla Shihlomule are the M74 SEALERS!! (Rowan is also responsible for the killer whale work). Photo: Nico de Bruyn

CAT HUNTER & SEALER LEGACY BOOK PUBLISHED!

Four decades of adventure, tribulations and successes are shared through the memories of the remarkable individuals that hunted feral cats and studied seals on remote Subantarctic Marion and other Southern Ocean islands.

 LIMITED STOCK AVAILABLE AND GOING FAST!

LIMITED STOCK AVAILABLE AND GOING FAST!

"PAIN FORMS THE CHARACTER" delves to the heart and soul of what the life of a 'cat hunter' or 'sealer' on a remote cold, windswept island in the great Southern Ocean for a year or more is like. By interweaving factual background and the remarkable anecdotes from over 100 contributors, editors NICO DE BRUYN and CHRIS OOSTHUIZEN, provide entertaining context to the remarkable science and conservation achievements attained over >40 years on these starkly beautiful fringes of the world. This precious legacy continues to this day!  

To purchase this beautiful fully illustrated, colour, hard-cover coffee table book visit the 'SHOP' page on this website.  

 

ALL PROCEEDS ARE USED FOR CONTINUED RESEARCH WITHIN THE MIMMP.

MIMMP sealers on National Geographic expedition!

 Tristan da Cunha. Photo: Nico de Bruyn

Tristan da Cunha. Photo: Nico de Bruyn

PRISTINE SEAS – National Geographic

EXPEDITION to Tristan da Cunha

The goals of the Pristine Seas project are to find, survey, and help protect the last wild places in the ocean. To this end, National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project, in collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protections of Birds (RSPB) and the Tristan da Cunha Government will conduct a 21-day expedition to Tristan da Cunha, Nightingale, Inaccessible and Gough islands in January-February 2017.  Primary goals of the expedition are to conduct comprehensive quantitative surveys of the health of its largely unknown marine environment, and produce a documentary film to highlight this unique ecosystem and its people.  Prof. Marthán Bester and PhD student Mia Wege (MIMMP sealers) from the Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology & Entomology, Pretoria University will join the expedition and continue ongoing seal research (see below Philately commemoration of this seal effort).

The expedition vessel SVS Grenville (http://specialisedvesselservices.com/vessels/svs-grenville/) left Cape Town, South Africa on January 8, 2017 and has just arrived at Tristan.  Scientific exploration and filming of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago for 21 days will ensue, the ship returning to Cape Town on the 12th of February.

Progress during the expedition can be followed on:

http://nationalgeographic.org/projects/pristine-seas/tristan-da-cunha-expedition/

 

TRISTAN DA CUNHA Biodiversity - Stamp Issue Part 1

The first day cover for this stamp issue, which includes a stamp depicting a Subantarctic fur seal, also carries the logo of UP in recognition of the project entitled 'Subantarctic Fur Seals at the Tristan da Cunha Islands' that the Mammal Research Institute have been carrying out (from 2009) under the direction of Prof. Marthán Bester, involving ‘Sealers’ from the Marion Island Marine Mammal Programme (MIMMP) of Prof. Nico de Bruyn. The project was developed by Prof. Bester at the behest of the Tristan da Cunha Conservation Department, and is executed under permit from the Tristan da Cunha Government. The Biodiversity Stamp Issue can be viewed at: http://www.tristandc.com/po/stamps201611.php

Whiskers tell us what elephant seals eat.. and when!

New paper on whisker replacement phenology and growth rate in southern elephant seals!

Lübcker N, Condit R, Beltran RS, de Bruyn PJN, Bester MN. 2016. Vibrissal growth parameters of southern elephant seals Mirounga leonina: obtaining fine-scale, time-based stable isotope data. Marine Ecology Progress Series 559: 243-255. doi: 10.3354/meps11899

Stable isotope analysis is based on the principle “you are what you eat” – in other words, the biomolecule composition of a consumer’s body tissues can give us an indication of diet over time.

 A southern elephant seal's whiskers can tell us what the animal ate, and when it did so! Photo: Nico Lübcker

A southern elephant seal's whiskers can tell us what the animal ate, and when it did so! Photo: Nico Lübcker

The nitrogen and carbon stable isotope ratios originating from the diet are chronologically deposited along the length of inert but growing keratinous tissues, such as whiskers (vibrissae), hair, and nails. Analyses of keratinous tissues provide a history of the individual’s diet.  Importantly, the timing of the whisker growth rates or replacement pattern is required to link the ‘stored’ dietary data to the specific time when the actual eating occurred. We sampled whiskers from southern elephant seals (SES) at Subantarctic Marion Island to define the prevalence and timing of their whisker replacement. Secondly, we could determine their whisker regrowth rate thanks to our knowledge of the ages of the sampled animals.

Contrary to the previously described asynchronous whisker-shedding pattern of SES, 71.1% of individuals displayed whisker shedding during the annual pelage moult. Furthermore, the whisker growth ceased once the maximum length was reached, and the whiskers are retained before being replaced. The whisker growth followed a von Bertalanffy growth function as the growth rate decreased near the asymptotic length. The resolution of the isotopic data obtainable per 2 mm whisker section ranged from 3.5 days at the tip to >40 days at the base of the whisker. Using these defined growth rates and shedding patterns, researchers can prudently apply timestamps to stable isotope values captured along the whiskers of SES.

We can now more confidently assess the timing of foraging and what has been eaten while the seals are unobservable out at sea for months on end!

Written by: Nico Lübcker [nlubcker@zoology.up.ac.za], ResearchGate profile

 Nico checking on a big boy's whiskers!

Nico checking on a big boy's whiskers!

MIMMP Postdoc, Dr Chris Oosthuizen, at King George Island

  Baby southern elephant seal in a snowstorm, King George Island, South Shetlands. Photo: Chris Oosthuizen

 Baby southern elephant seal in a snowstorm, King George Island, South Shetlands. Photo: Chris Oosthuizen

 Chris Oosthuizen on expedition. 

Chris Oosthuizen on expedition. 

 

The fishery for krill (Euphausia superba) is the largest fishery in the Southern Ocean in terms of biomass removal. CCAMLR (the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources) is responsible for managing the harvest of all Southern Ocean living resources, including krill. CCAMLR aims to ensure that harvesting is sustainable, not only for the harvested species such as krill, but also for dependent predator species such as whales, seals and penguins.

Presently, over 95% of krill fishing is conducted in the West Antarctic Peninsula and South Orkney Islands regions, and it is within this context that Chris Oosthuizen (current Marion Island Marine Mammal Programme postdoctoral researcher) finds himself at the South Shetlands Islands. Chris is working on a collaborative project which includes colleagues from the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Instituto Antártico Argentino and the University of Pretoria. Field work on southern elephant seals, Gentoo and Adélie penguins is now underway at Stranger Point near the Argentine Base Carlini on Isla 25 de Mayo/King George Island, at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The data on predator foraging behavior collected during this (and past) field season(s) assist CCAMLR in the development of spatially and temporally relevant feedback strategies for long-term management of the krill fishery, including the planning process for Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s). 

Text: WC Oosthuizen

Field assistant positions Marion Island 2017-2018 - NOW CLOSED

 Southern elephant seal census, Marion Island. Photo: Nico de Bruyn

Southern elephant seal census, Marion Island. Photo: Nico de Bruyn

Three field assistant positions (2 x "Sealers" and 1 x "Whaler") are once again available at Marion Island, April 2016 - May 2017. All three positions are embedded within the research programme: "Marion Island Marine Mammals - sensitivity to global drivers of environmental change".

For instructions and more information:
Mammalogist - Seals
Mammalogist - Killer Whales

Read the advertisements carefully and follow the application instructions therein, taking special note of the need for 'hard copy' applications as stipulated by DEA. An official Z83 form can be downloaded here.

An overview documentary of what you might expect in these positions can be viewed here and further insight about our science gained by looking at our publications. Additional information about the positions and a background to the programme can be found on our programme history, 'working with us' and FAQ pages.

Inquiries and cover letters may be sent to Prof Nico de Bruyn (pjndebruyn[at]zoology.up.ac.za), but note that official applications need to be sent to DEA (see above).

DEADLINE: 20 October 2016