January 6, 2014

New Research Details Northern Fur Seal Foraging Patterns Along Ocean Fronts

Tags: Bering Sea Project

Where do northern fur seals go when they are at sea, and how do they know where to find food? A recent article in the North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium News reports on the two new studies led by Chad Nordstrom (UBC Marine Mammal Research Unit) that seek to answer those questions. The studies mapped the foraging patterns of female fur seals and found new insights into how ocean currents can affect the success of a foraging trip. 

Working with 87 lactating female fur seals fitted with high-tech tracking tags, Nordstrom analyzed thousands of dive profiles logged over dozens of foraging trips, some of which lasted over one week. The data from the tags gave him detailed insights on how far and how deep the seals travel, and where they stop to eat. Nordstrom worked with the Bering Sea Project's Patch Dynamics Team (a group of oceanographers and biologists who were mapping the intricate interplay between the physical ocean and the life within it). The collaboration gave Nordstrom a chance to compare the oceanographic data from his tags—produced by foraging fur seals—with measurements taken aboard a ship.