According to a paper published today by a team of French, Australian, US and British scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, elephant seals fitted with special oceanographic sensors are providing a 30-fold increase in data recorded in parts of the Southern Ocean rarely observed using traditional ocean monitoring techniques.
“They have made it possible for us to observe large areas of the ocean under the sea ice in winter for the first time,” says co-author Dr Steve Rintoul from the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystem Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) and CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship.Co-author, University of Tasmania Professor Mark Hindell says the seal data complements traditional oceanographic sampling from ships, satellites and drifting buoys.
The seals typically covered a distance of 35-65 kilometres a day with a total of 16,500 profiles obtained in 2004-5. Of these, 8,200 were obtained south of 60S, nine times more than have been obtained from floats and research and supply ships. The 4,520 profiles obtained within the sea ice is a 30-fold increase over conventional data. The seals dived repeatedly to a depth of more than 500 metres on average and to a maximum depth of nearly 2000m. The Australian team included scientists from CSIRO, the ACE CRC, the University of Tasmania's School of Zoology and Centre for Marine Science and Charles Darwin University.
National Research Flagships
CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based solutions in response to Australia’s major research challenges and opportunities. The nine Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for Australia.
Craig Macaulay | EurekAlert!
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