What do the seal researchers do on the May?

P1130484The Isle of May is at the fore front of seal research and I am very pleased to get the chance to see some of it going on on the island. Here are just a few of the things the seal researchers do when they are out on the island.
P1130522This is Rocky, a remote control car with a camera for going into the colony and get close footage. To check that the seals are not disturbed by Rocky and change their behaviour heart rate monitors are fitted to some to assess their reaction to the vehicle.
P1130458During my first afternoon on the island a plane flew low overhead time and time again. This is the method used to find out how many pups are born here. The planes flies over many large seal colonies in the country each week during the season photography the seals. The pups stand out with their white coat so analysis of the series of photos can give you an number of pups born in a season.
P1130509Kimberly is also on  the seal team. She also does some teaching at St. Andrews University so to help with this she needed a complete seal skeleton. So how do you actually get a seal skeleton? Well first you need a dead seal. Unfortunately there are usually one or two during a season on the May. You then need to spend a huge amount of time dissecting out the bones before the seal gets too smelly. Then the bones are put in a big net and lowered into the loch. Whatever is in the loch over a period of a year does a fantastic job of cleaning up the bones. And this leaves Kimberley with one very big jigsaw to put the whole skeleton back together again.
Other work involved long term monitoring of certain individuals that the researchers know very well to follow their life histories.Much of what we know about grey seals has come from work on the Isle of May by the Sea Mammal Research Unit.

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