Stresses and Strains

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Stresses of raising a youngster (Sean Twiss)


Guarding against others (Sean Twiss)

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Cooling down in a nearby pool (Sean Twiss)


Courtney carrying out observations across the colony


Wednesday 18th November comments: Dr Sean Twiss is leading a field team from Durham University on the Isle of May this autumn in collaboration with the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU).  The team; Courtney Shuert, Zoe Fraser and Sean conduct research on the causes and consequences of individual variation in behaviour; how and why individuals differ so much in their behaviour.

Over the past two breeding seasons they have been using heart rate monitors to investigate how individuals differ in their stress responses to naturally occurring stressful situations; such as aggressive interactions with their neighbours.

Sedan and his team are aiming to understand why individuals differ so much in their behavioural reactions to stressful situations, and to provide baseline measures of just how stressful a breeding season is for a female Grey Seal!  This knowledge will be of use in other situations, for example, where there may be increasing proximity of seals and people – with our data we will be able to ask whether human interactions with seals are actually any more stressful than what they experience in their ‘undisturbed’, natural settings.

Sean Twiss is a Senior lecturer in Animal Behaviour at Durham University, UK, and has been studying grey seal behaviour for 30 years on various Scottish grey seal breeding colonies, including North Rona and the Monach Isles, as well as the work on the Isle of May. All of these sites are maintained by SNH as National Nature Reserves, and the grey seals breeding on these island are one of the wildlife spectacles of these Reserves.

You can follow Sean’s team as they conduct their research on their blog;

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