Scientists have turned to elephant seals to collect data on the changing climate of Antarctica, one of the areas most sensitive to climate change. Previously, the scientists had what they called a “blind spot” under the sea ice, particularly in understanding how quickly sea ice forms during the winter months. The team, led by Jean-Benoit Charrassin of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, attached data collecting sensors to local elephant seals, which then dove distances up to a mile below the surface of the water in search of food.
Scientists outfit an elephant seal with a data collection device and check its colon for polyps.
With the sensors, the researchers were able to gather nine times as much data on pressure, salinity and position, as was previously accessible from ships and buoys and thirty times as much information. (Note: Can anyone clarify on the difference between data and information? It sounds like a subtle attempt to get more grant money to us.)
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Commented Steve Rintoul from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in this article in Le Figaro, “Les éléphants de mer ont notamment permis d’augmenter de 30 fois les profils hydrographiques dans la zone de glace de mer», soulignent les chercheurs dans l’étude.”
Understanding how sea ice forms is a key element in predicting the effect of climate change on Antarctica and the world as a whole. Not only do many rare and endangered species rely on sea ice to live, but it also plays crucial roles in ocean currents and global temperatures. By employing elephant seals the scientists were also able to save huge costs in workers compensation and benefits packages, as allowing them to sexually harass the seals as much as they desired without any threat of legal action…Geniuses all of them!