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Dispatches from the field

Northern fur seal food study in Bering Sea using Saildrone: Second year adding video


Northern fur seal pup in the rookery
A curious northern fur seal pup came to visit us in our hiding place behind a rock.
Photo: NOAA Fisheries

Northern Fur Seal
Norther fur seal survey
What's Happening
July 17
July 28
August 22
September 12
September 22
November 20
Field Blogs Home

Sneak Peak at Early Video Images from Fur Seal Tagging

Weíre back in Seattle but the project isnít quite done yet. Before we left St. Paul Island, we were able to recover three of our six new cameras. The remaining fur seals didnít return home from their foraging trips in time for us to catch them. In the next few weeks, a team of scientists will head to St. Paul Island for a different northern fur seal project and they are going to try to catch the last few fur seals. Itís not often we get a second chance to recover tracking instruments so we are grateful they are willing to put in some extra work!

Video footage captured from a northern fur seal equiped video camera. Video: NOAA Fisheries

Image capture from video footage of fur seal approaching a fish that is swimming near a jelly fish.
On the right, the fur seal is approaching a fish that is swimming near a jelly fish.  
Photo: NOAA Fisheries 

Image capture from video footage northern fur seal swimming with another fur seal.
Still images taken from some of the video recorded from northern fur seals during their foraging trip. The fur seals head is seen in the lower center of both pictures. On the left, the instrumented fur seal is swimming with another fur seal near the surface.  Photo: NOAA Fisheries 

Field Work Near Complete, Now the Analysis Begins

The Saildrone is on its last leg of the 2017 Mission and is heading to Dutch Harbor to be recovered. Before the fur seal part of the mission ended, we had the Saildrone follow four of the fur seals that were equipped with cameras during their foraging trip. The video from the fur seals will be matched with the echosounder data collected by the Saildrone to get a complete picture of what prey was available and what fish the fur seals actually were eating. There are hundreds of videos to review so the data analysis will be a long process but Iíve included a couple of pictures of what weíve seen so far.

Although we werenít able to get everything done, I still consider this field season a huge success! It wouldnít have been possible without the hard work of my field teams in both July and September. Their commitment, persistence, positive outlook, and humor, even during the unforeseen challenges and poor weather conditions, made it possible to collect an amazingly valuable dataset. Thereís a great deal of work ahead during the data analysis stage of the project but with help from my collaborators here at the Center, this yearís work will help us gain a better understanding of the relationships between northern fur seals and the fish they depend on to survive.

A researcher searches the rookery for an instrumented northern fur seals
A researcher searches the rookery for an instrumented northern fur seals that just returned from her foraging trip.  
Photo: NOAA Fisheries 

Sneaking up to capture a female northern fur seal
Jeremy Sterling (upper right) sneaking up to capture a northern fur seal female (lower left). This fur seal was equipped with a video camera and a satellite linked dive recorder. 
Photo: NOAA Fisheries 

Meet the Blogger

Carey Kuhn
Carey Kuhn

Carey Kuhn is an ecologist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Centerís Marine Mammal Laboratory.

Carey joined the Labís Alaska Ecosystems program in 2007 after completing her Ph.D. at the University of California Santa Cruz.

Her research focuses on the at-sea behavior of northern fur seals.

Want to know more about this yearís mission?

Read more about this year's planned mission on the NOAA Research webpage..

Click here to follow the Saildrone 2017 mission, or here to learn more about the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory advances in ecosystem research.

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