Seal Senses: Orienting in a featureless environment

Latest update September 3, 2019 Started on November 12, 2018
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It has taken decades of research to obtain a fundamental understanding of the pinniped senses. Nevertheless we still hardly know anything about how the senses contribute to orientation and navigation in the pinnipeds’ habitat, the open ocean. At first glance, the open ocean seems to be a rather featureless environment - but the pinnipeds easily find their way to foraging grounds and back to haul-out places. We start an expedition to combine lab and field work with lab and wild animals in an attempt to unravel the mystery of pinniped orientation and navigation in the open ocean “desert”. Join us!

November 12, 2018
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Preparation

Finally I am back to the seals - it has already taking a long time to be back to the seals - but now it is done which means that we are getting closer and closer to the journey!

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World Ocean Day - We celebrate World Oceans Day to remind everyone of the major role the oceans have in everyday life. They are the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe. The purpose of the Day is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, and mobilize and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world's oceans. They are a major source of food and medicines and a critical part of the biosphere. In the end, it is a day to celebrate together the beauty, the wealth and the promise of the ocean. (www.un.org)

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The Trident has arrived - after some trouble with the customs, here it is! Let us see how we can get started!
We are excited - how will the seals react?

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We will get a Trident underwater drone! Thanks to OpenROV, the S.E.E. Initiative and National Geographic - and, of course, to all of you supporters/followers! We will keep you updated as the project progresses...

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Yesterday was an important day - we are one step closer to the start of the project - and with an underwater drone, it will be amazing to observe the seals: in the enclosure and in the open-field - new degrees of experimental freedom!

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While still thinking about so many things about the future expedition, the seals are incredible: the belt, allowing the attachment of instruments, is worn with elegance!

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Happy new year to everybody!
We are still in the planning phase of our future expedition discussing about suitable sensors and what we would like to record while the wild seals are behaving. Thereby we need to find the balance between the number of parameters we can record or measure and the size of the sensor - input is very welcome!

Expedition Background

Many years of extensive research on the pinnipeds' senses are laying behind us. We have made some very interesting discovers concerning all sensory modalities. However our major goal is to rethink, extent and integrate our knowledge on the sensory systems to understand the pinnipeds' orientation and navigational mechanisms: which cues are these animals using in the open ocean to orient themselves, to travel from haul-out places to foraging grounds and back. Starting our expedition now, we are hoping that will get an answer to this and many other questions while working with our experimental animals, we know so well - but also while working with wild animals. Let the endeavor start - now!

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