Update

Alex also made a website! Check it out at AntarcticaRevisited.com where she included all sorts of activities for this expedition.

What Are They Doing?

A Weddell seal near McMurdo Station, Antarctica
A Weddell seal near McMurdo Station, Antarctica (Photo by Alex Eilers)
The team traveled daily to Weddell seal haul out sites on the sea ice near McMurdo Station. While on location, the team found female seals, gently sedated them, and took a variety of biological samples – weight, size (length and girth), took blood samples, and collected tissue samples. They also took thermal images of the seals to see how much heat the seal was losing to the environment. A time-depth recorder also was placed on the seals hind flipper to record the seals' dive behaviors. The team will return the next season in an attempt to relocate the seals, take biological data, collect the tags, and determine if the seals have pupped.

This data was collected and analyzed in an attempt to learn more about what drives the timing of a seal's critical life history events – such as breeding and molting – and how disruptions in that natural cycle by changes in climate and environment might affect the world's southernmost mammal.

Where Are They?

McMurdo Station, Antarctica
McMurdo Station, Antarctica (Photo by Robin Ellwood)
While in Antarctica, the research team lived at McMurdo Station, the U.S. Antarctic Science Center. McMurdo Station is capable of housing up to 1,258 residents, the largest community in Antarctica. McMurdo Station is on Ross Island, a volcanic island (with the southernmost active volcano, Mt. Erebus) south of New Zealand in the Ross Sea. McMurdo Station has its own science labs, engineering centers, dormitories, galley (kitchen), and even a US post office.

Expedition Map

Dates
-
Location
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Project Funded Title
The Cost of a New Fur Coat: Interactions between reproduction and molt in Weddell Seals in Erebus Bay, Antarctica
Related Expeditions
Alex Eilers - Teacher
Teacher
Pink Palace Museum

Growing up in Chillicothe, Illinois, Alice Eilers dreamed of becoming a teacher. Ms. Eilers began her schooling at the University of Mississippi, receiving her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education in 1990 and completing her graduate degree at the University of Memphis six years later. In 1995 her dreams of becoming a teacher became a reality and she began her teaching career at the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. Ms. Eilers is currently the Manager of Education and has had the pleasure of teaching a variety of subjects including astronomy, natural and cultural history to area Pre-K through 8th grade students. Ms. Eilers has also been involved in number of national teacher professional development programs. In 2008, she was selected to participate in a research project studying Leatherback Sea Turtles through the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program. Ms. Eilers is in the MESSENGER Educator Fellowship Program and has also participated in the UMASS-STEM Polar Connections Program.

Jennifer Burns - Researcher
Researcher
University of Alaska

Dr. Jennifer Burns' research focuses on understanding how the age and physiological status of juvenile marine mammals influences their diving and foraging capacities, and on how differences in rates of physiological development impact life history traits. Burns currently has an active research program focused on understanding whether the rate and extent of neonatal physiological development is closely correlated with the onset of independent foraging. In her research, Burns uses a wide variety of analytical tools including computerized dive recorders, satellite telemetry and GIS techniques, as well as several more hands-on techniques such as measuring heart rate and respiration patterns, energy use, and animal condition and health status.

Ward Testa - Researcher
Researcher
Alaska Ecosystem Program, National Marine Mammal Laboratory

Dr. Ward Testa is a Wildlife Biologist for the Alaska Ecosystems Program at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML), a part of NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) within the National Marine Fisheries Service (NFMS) in Seattle. Through a co-operative arrangement with the University of Alaska, Testa is located in the Department of Biological Sciences on the campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage. In addition to his research duties for NMML, he is an affiliate faculty at UAA and teaches a graduate course in Wildlife Population Dynamics. Ward will not be in the field during summer 2015-2016

Latest Journals

Ohio or Bust- Road Trip Even though I returned from Antarctica back in December, I have been busy! So what have I been up to? Before I left for Antarctica, I went to visit different schools to talk to students about what the team would be doing in Antarctica. Now that I am back, I have continued…
Field work update We last left you with 12 seals worked this field season. I’m happy to announce that we have completed all 24 seals. Here’s how the breakdown looks. We worked: 8 early moms 8 skip females 8 late moms If you missed a summary of the first ½ of the season, you can catch up…
Meet McMurdo: Hike to Discovery Hut Meet McMurdo - Discovery Hut. I’ve got ‘good’ news and ‘bad’ news. Since I like to end things on a positive note, let’s start with the ‘bad’ news, first. The ‘bad’ news… Our flight off the continent has been postponed, for several days. We will likely not…
Meet McMurdo - Fire Department Meet McMurdo Fire Department Even in this extreme environment, I’m constantly surprised at how similar McMurdo Station is to the way things are back at home. This includes firefighters! But as I look around, I don’t see any brush that can catch on fire, and…
McMurdo Adventure Our McMurdo adventure is nearing the end. It’s hard to believe, the time has flown by, so I thought I’d share a few of my recent adventures. During my first trip here, I was so busy with our research project that I didn’t get to see and explore everything McMurdo has to offer.…
This journal is brought to you by… Bluff City Bluefins Swim Team Ms. Catherine Hammons 6th grade (block 6) at Lausanne Collegiate School Davis Community Center in Memphis, TN This journal is brought to you by… Mrs. Caldwell’s 2nd grade class at Crosswind Elementary Students The Perkins…

Weddell Seals in the Ross Sea 2014 Resources

This one hour webinar is a great look at the PolarTREC 2014-5 Antarctic expeditions. Each teacher presents on the research projects, implementation in the classroom, and outreach into communities.

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Article about UAA graduate students Roxanne Beltran and Amy Kirkham, part of the team studying Weddell seals in the Ross Sea.

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This one hour webinar features Alex Eilers and the team studying Weddell Seals in the Ross Sea. The team shares their research with the audience and honors the importance of Antarctica Day. The event celebrates the international treaty stating that Antarctica is set aside for peaceful scientific purposes.

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Article in the Shelby Sun Times about PolarTREC teacher Alex Eilers’ return expedition to study Weddell seals in the Ross Sea.

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Article about PolarTREC teacher Alex Eilers’ return expedition to study Weddell seals in the Ross Sea.

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