Blaxland, Australia
Blaxland, Australia

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News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: phys.org

Last summer, the researchers completed a successful pilot program with help from more than 5,000 volunteers who counted seals from satellite images of sea ice in the Ross Sea. The team is now ready to expand the project to the entire continent. "Right now, everything we know about Weddell seals is limited to an area representing about one percent of the coastline around Antarctica," said Michelle LaRue, a research ecologist in the University of Minnesota's Department of Earth Sciences and lead researcher on the project. "Now we need help from the public to search the remaining 99 percent so we can better understand where seals live and why." Weddell seals are important to the Southern Ocean ecosystem and have been studied since the early 1960s. However, no one has been able to do a comprehensive count of the seals due to the harsh Antarctic weather and remote locations in which the seals live. Now, high-resolution satellite images provide a solution—counting seals on satellite images—but there are too many images for scientists to handle alone. "There's really no other way to do a count of Weddell seals like this," LaRue said. "Even though our team includes seasoned researchers and know how to count seals on the images, it would take years for our small team to search all the images. These types of projects also expand education on important wildlife species. We have engagement from classrooms nationwide in our research." Weddell seals are one of Antarctica's most iconic species. In addition to being undeniably charismatic, they are the southern-most mammal in the world, can live up to 30 years, and are perfectly adapted to living in some of the harshest conditions on the planet. They are seasonal occupants of the coastal sea ice that surrounds Antarctica. By counting seals on satellite imagery, scientists hope to learn more about climate change and how fishing in Antarctic may be affecting the number of seals and the entire ecosystem over time. This research is funded by the National Science Foundation and is a joint effort of the University of Minnesota, University of Colorado at Boulder, H.T. Harvey & Associates Ecological Consultants, Point Blue Conservation Science, Tomnod, and DigitalGlobe. In addition to LaRue, the research team includes David Ainley, HT Harvey and Associates; Sharon Stammerjohn, University of Colorado at Boulder; Leo Salas, Point Blue Conservation Science; and Kostas Stamatiou and Jon Saints, Tomnod. Explore further: Count seals in Antarctica from the comfort of your couch More information: To start counting seals, visit the Tomnod website: www.tomnod.com/campaign/antarctica_pilot_2


Smith P.,Ecological Consultants | Smith J.,Ecological Consultants
Pacific Conservation Biology | Year: 2010

Urban edge effects can have an adverse impact on native flora and fauna in the adjoining bushland. We surveyed edge effects at sites in the Blue Mountains where the urban area is separated from bushland by a perimeter road. Common edge effects included weed invasion, physical disturbance of the vegetation and soil, incidental rubbish, dumped rubbish, dumped plant material, tree felling/lopping/ringbarking and visits from domestic dogs. Uncommon edge effects included recent hazard reduction bums, bushrock collection, and poor tree health (dieback not associated with fires). The maximum extent of obvious edge effects (all types combined) varied between sites, from 9 m to 60 m from the edge of the road. At most sites (77%), edge effects were restricted to distances of 40 m or less into the bushland, but a significant number of sites (23%) had more extensive edge effects. Sites with extensive weed invasion were associated with older housing, suggesting that weed invasion will increase over time at sites adjacent to younger housing. Weed invasion frequently extended further than 60 m into the bushland along drainage lines and tracks, especially the former, but these were not included in the measurements. Edge effects were more extensive on flatter topography than downslope of housing, apparently because the former is subject to more intensive use by local residents. The actions of local residents have a major influence on edge effects, and are responsible for much of the variability observed between sites. The findings of this study are consistent with previous studies of edge effects around Sydney and elsewhere. Based on the results of the study, we recommend that a buffer of native vegetation at least 60 m wide should be retained around significant flora and fauna habitats to protect them from edge effects. Additional management actions are required to control vegetation degradation along drainage lines.


Smith P.,Ecological Consultants | Smith J.,Ecological Consultants
Corella | Year: 2014

The diet of the Sooty Owl Tyto tenebricosa was studied at Blaxland in the lower Blue Mountains, New South Wales, by analysis of regurgitated pellet material. Small and medium-sized mammals were the most common prey, as also documented by previous studies. However, birds and reptiles contributed an unusually high proportion of the diet, especially the Pink-tongued Skink Cyclodomorphus gerrardii, which was the second most important prey species, by both number and biomass.

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