Have you ever wondered how far a wild seal travels and how much energy it uses? Well that's exactly what we're investigating with collegues from Macquarie University.
Our Marine Biologist, Dr. David Slip has the enviable office of Montague Island, where he and Prof Rob Harcourt have been tracking Australian and New Zealand Fur Seals, Little Penguins and other seabirds to see how they use the ocean so we can better protect them.
The research involves deploying conductivity / temperature/ depth censors on the seals and although it might seem strange seeing these data recorders on the backs of the seals they are completely invasive and fall off during the annual seal moult, but thanks to technological improvements, they are providing data that scientists could only have dreamed of ten years ago.
The trackers are giving us amazing information about the seal behaviours and movements along the NSW coastline. Already we've discovered that there appears to be a difference between the feeding behaviours of the New Zealand and Australian Fur Seals and that the animals put their flippers to good use. They certainly appear to travel far and wide, with seals which we've tagged at Jervis Bay on the NSW South Coast later spotted basking on Montague Island and vice versa.
By identifying how oceanographic features impact on wildlife species behaviour, we will be better able to identify important marine hotspots and feed back this information to improve the management and zoning of marine parks.
The Zoo seals are also playing a vital role in the research as well. By measuring their energy consumption and their food intake we can overlay this with the data from the wild to help determine how much fuel wild seals need to sustain themselves.