Alaska SeaLife News

Posted: Monday, July 02, 2001

The count is up to seven

The Alaska SeaLife Center's Rescue and Rehabilitation Program staff is working long hours to care for a large number of sick and injured animals this summer, primarily seals. Seven seals, five harbor and two ringed, from Sadie Creek, Point Spencer, King Salmon, Drift River, Kodiak Island and Cordova were brought into the center. One of the seals, week-old Isabella, found in Cordova, died Monday morning.

Humpbacks amaze visitors, staff

Recently ASLC staff members and guests got the opportunity to view two humpback whales swimming just a few feet from the center. Both whales appeared to be feeding and could be seen lunging out of the water with their mouths wide open. At times, staff and visitors observed the whales as close as five to 10 feet from the loading dock directly behind the center. While sightings like this one are fairly uncommon, Steller sea lions, sea otters, eagles and various sea birds can be seen from the center observation deck during different seasons.

Optimal foraging experiments begin

Optimal foraging experiments, conducted by Dr. Markus Horning and Leslie Cornick of Texas A&M University, are starting for the third summer this week in the Steller sea lion habitat. Three fish feeder tubes, which can be seen suspended over the habitat, are used to simulate prey encounters. Researchers are examining the relationship between food availability and dive behavior/foraging strategy.

This year they are working to validate the experimental approach by repeating a series of runs from last summer with one notable difference -- the addition of increased hydrodynamics drag. At this time, a large neoprene patch and orange attachment can be seen on Woody's back. This patch allows researchers to put instruments on his back that measure dive parameters, such as time and depth, and swim speed.

Later this month, several heat flux recorders will be attached for thermoregulation experiments being conducted by Dr. Horning and his student Kate Wells. Researchers also will be using the neoprene patch to add the drag devise. The increased drag increases the energetic cost of swimming during the experiments, so researchers can compare the two sets of data and look for changes in the dive duration and other variables that help researchers understand foraging behavior and energetics.

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