Weather permitting, the field research team for the Weddell seal population study will be returning to Antarctica tomorrow as the 2013 Antarctica field season resumes following the end of the U.S. government shutdown. The government shutdown had forced the cancellation of the U.S. Antarctic Program's 2013-2014 research season, and research projects were halted. However, while many research projects that can still accomplish their research field work in the brief season window remaining may now resume their field season, not all of the Antarctic research projects have been as fortunate, as a number of projects have had their 2013-2014 field season cancelled altogether or significantly curtailed as the result of the government shutdown.
The Weddell seal study field team will fly from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Station, Antarctica to resume preparations for work on the sea ice, continuing the 45 year ongoing population study and unique multigenerational database surveying the Weddell seal population of the entire Erebus Bay study area, and tagging all of the new pups born in the numerous Weddell pupping colonies throughout the study area.
Preparation and travel to the ice is handled by the US Antarctic Program, New Zealand, and includes everything from outfitting the field team with extreme cold weather clothing to coordinating the flights to the ice. Here's one of our project videos on what's involved in deploying to Antarctica.
Once at McMurdo, the field team will resume essential training before heading out into the field. This training will consist of everything from learning how to drive and care for snowmobiles and pisten bullies to sea ice safety and basic field survival training.
We will continue to update this blog as the 2013 Weddell seal population study field season gets underway!