The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Mammals

The Southern Ocean and Antarctic systems offer remarkable natural experimental models for studying disrupted ecosystems. The long-term stability of the Antarctic has led to the development of a tightly coupled marine trophic structure, but the recent synergy between climate induced and anthropogenic influences (fisheries) has seen some regions undergo environmental change. Mammals are likely to be susceptible to the potential effects of anthropogenic pollutants and global warming. Unlike many other predators in the region, many of the seals (leopard, crabeater, Ross and Weddell seals) were never directly harvested by humans; so that their population trajectories track the impacts of biological and environmental changes in this ecosystem. By investigating changes in the food web, particularly foraging and spatial patterns of seal populations, we can compare with historic samples and changes seen in the West Antarctic.

The research program

  1. On the AAE 2013-2014 we set out south to discover whether there has been a change at the top of the Antarctic food web among the seal populations since the original expedition.
  2. On the AAE 2013-2014 we undertook to map the stable isotopic signatures in seals to investigate whether there has been a change in diet over time.
  3. On the AAE 2013-2014 we wanted to find out more about the singing behaviour* of the seals and how we can use their songs to learn more about the seals themselves.

* listen to Sea Leopard song recorded on the expedition on Soundcloud.