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“Tweeting” seals collect ocean data for international database
Diving marine animals are proving to be an essential way of collecting oceanographic data especially in hard to reach areas such as the ice-bound Polar Regions. Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) tags seals in the Southern Ocean and this data is a major contributor to a new international data portal.
In the last decade, hundreds of diving animals have been helping us to monitor remote areas in the Polar oceans. Changes in the polar oceans have global ramifications and a significant influence on weather and climate. Sustained observations are required to detect, interpret and respond to change.
From June 1, 2015, national oceanographic data centres and researchers will be able to access data collected by marine animals via the Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole-to-pole (MEOP) Portal (www.meop.net). The international MEOP consortium formed during the International Polar Year in 2008-2009, with participants from ten countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Norway, South Africa, United States).
The diving animals are equipped with special ocean sensing data logger/transmitters which are programmed to collect ocean profiles in parallel to biological information when animals dive for food.
"The transmitters send short bursts of compressed information to satellites that then relay the data back to us with details about the seal's immediate physical environment.” says Professor of Marine Ecology, Rob Harcourt, at Macquarie University, “It’s like tweeting”
The animal CTD profilers (called CTD-SRDLs for Conductivity Temperature Depth - Satellite Relay data loggers) are small battery powered instruments that, operating under programmatic control, take measurements once each second as animals ascend from their deepest dives. They then organize these data into a message that is relayed to a satellite which in turn relays it back to be processed into standardised time and location stamped profiles.
The growing time series of Southern Ocean observations that has been collected by IMOS is already available via the IMOS data portal https://imos.aodn.org.au/imos123/.
Prof Robert Harcourt
Integrated Marine Observing System
Sydney, 2109, New South Wales, Australia
ph: (+61 2) 9850 7970
Dr Clive McMahon
Integrated Marine Observing System, Sydney Institute of Marine Science
Mosman, 2088, New South Wales, Australia
phone (+61 0) 419870275
Prof Mark Hindell
Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies,
University of Tasmania
Hobart 7001 Tasmania, Australia
Ph: (+61 3) 62262645
IMOS Communications Manager
Phone: (03) 6226 7505