As part of a team of 20 researchers, one of our team members, Dr. Elisa Seyboth, joined a expedition to Antarctica from 25 February to 11 March! That was an activity of the Whales and Climate Research Program in collaboration with projects of the High Latitude Oceanography Group (GOAL) from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (FURG), Brazil. FURG is one of the South American collaborating institutions of our program. The expedition was conducted onboard the navy’s Polar Vessel Almirante Maximiano and organized under the Brazilian Antarctic Program (Programa Antártico Brasileiro – PROANTAR).
Cetacean monitoring was performed in the Bransfield and Gerlache Straits, and a total of 156 cetacean sightings were recorded. Most of them were humpback whales, but there was also a significant number of fin whales, especially at northern Bransfield Strait. Photo-identification data was also collected, as well as biopsies for genetic and stable isotope analysis.
Environmental data were also collected in 71 oceanographic stations spread out in the study area. That will be used to further investigate the distribution and habitat use of humpback whales in their feeding ground. For the study of energy transfer throughout the food web, phyto and zooplankton samples were collected for stable isotope analysis.
The humpback whales sighted in the area belong to the stock breeding on the west coast of South America, and having data from both their breeding and feeding areas will give us a better understanding of their status and ecological aspects.
Cetacean research team performing visual observation
A humpback whale being approached for biopsy sampling.
Researchers work on the biopsies obtained. Analysis will be performed in laboratories on land.