Greetings from the sea ice of McMurdo Sound! First off, yes, I am kneeling on frozen ocean. The sea ice here this time of year is about 2-3 meters thick. Those big chunks behind me are part of a pressure ridge; they are jagged cracks with openings to the sea water formed by pressure from a nearby physical object, in this case, Big Razorback Island (seen right above me). The openings allow Weddell seals to come up onto the sea ice and relax (or alternatively, give birth to pups).
B-009 has been doing population ecology work with Weddell seals since 1968! They tag and monitor Weddell seals in the areas near McMurdo station, and this includes weighing pups at birth, 20 days old, and 35 days old. From all of the data they collect, they can learn about generations of seals (lineages), pup survival rates, average age of adults, and even where adult seals prefer to give birth. This long-term research can help us understand these animals' relationship to their environment, and how past, preset, and future changes might impact them.
B-267 is looking at how seals physically cope with diving. These remarkable animals can hold their breath for over 90 minutes! That means they are able to survive with very low levels of oxygen for a very long time. If we can understand how they are able to do this, maybe we can help people who have suffered from strokes or heart attacks (both things that involve oxygen deprivation). Their work involves looking at blood and tissue samples from seals.
It would be an understatement to say that I love drawing these blub-dubs*.
*That's what I call seals.