BLS6: Marine Mammals as Oceanographers

Greetings from Bio-Logging Symposium Day 2!

This afternoon I attended a session entirely devoted to the integration of satellite tags and oceanographic monitoring tools. Marine mammals are excellent platforms for collecting oceanographic variables because many species can travel long distances and dive to deep ocean depths. Marine mammal ecologists and biogeochemical oceanographers have been teaming up to develop satellite tags that can collect location data along with oceanographicvariables.

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In Prydz Bay, Antarctica, a male southern elephant seal sports a miniaturized conductivity-temperature-depth sensor. Information from the tag is transmitted via a data-collecting satellite to tell us about the oceanography in some of the most remote oceans! Photo by Clive R. McMahon

For example, one group of researchers in Hawaii equipped tiger sharks with satellite tags that also collected oxygen levels in the water column and modelled oceanographic profiles. Another group tagged elephant seals with sensors that collected data on wind, wave and chlorophyll concentrations. Animals can fill in data “gaps” by accessing regions (e.g., coastal fjords) and water depths (e.g., under sea ice) that traditional weather buoys and gliders are not typically found.

However, it will be important for marine mammal ecologists to work together with oceanographers to validate the data before  incorporating it into conservation or management plans.

You can read more about this kind of work HERE

Data showing temperature and salinity sections obtained by recovering a CTD-SRDL tag at the Kergulen Islands. Data owner: Christophe Guinet, CNRS, France

Written by: Dr. Casey Brown

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