In order to design a meaningful research project, scientists must first have a solid understanding of the subject they wish to study. Dr. Mellish and her team are fortunate because the Weddell seal population on McMurdo Sound has been studied extensively since 1968. Data collected as part of this Montana State University project has resulted in one of the most complete life histories of any wild mammal population in the world!
VIDEO: WEDDELL SEAL SCIENCE
Learn about the life history of Weddell seals. (3:50)
While much is known about the life history of Weddell seals, less is understood about the species' physiological needs, including how they thermoregulate. In fact, due to the challenges that come with studying animals that split their time between land and sea, very little is known about the energetic costs of thermoregulation in any marine mammal species.
VIDEO: WHAT IS ENERGETICS?
Physiologist Dr. Allyson Hindle explains the concept of energetics and describes what makes up the 'energy budget' of a Weddell seal. (1:13)
Thanks to recent advances in technology, tools now exist that allow scientists to study energetics in marine environments. Dr. Jo-Ann Mellish and her team hope to use these tools to establish a baseline for the energetic costs of thermoregulation in Weddell seals. They will use this information to predict polar seals' ability to adapt to changing habitat conditions.
WHO IS STUDYING SEALS?