Macquarie Island fur seal database
The dataset includes data on all fur seals tagged at Macquarie Island since 1989. The dataset includes information on the sex and species of individuals, information on their reproductive histories, resight data and tagging history.
The program began in 1986, but no data are available pre-1989.
The download file consists of a wide-range of files: an access database, a large number of excel ... spreadsheets, word documents, pdf files and text files. Data are contained in the access database (1994-1997) and excel spreadsheets and text files (all other years). The word documents and pdf files contain a lot of further information about the data collected in each season.
A readme document containing some general information about the datsets is also part of the download file - in the top level directory.
The fields in this dataset are:
mass at weaning
date of weaning
2007/2008 Season update
A successful field season was undertaken at Macquarie Island during the 07/08 summer. This included maintenance of the annual surveys of pup production (DNA sampling for species identification), pup tagging and resighting of individual seals for assessment of reproductive performance and survival for long-term demographic analyses. Two publications in the journal Molecular Ecology on reproductive success of hybrids and mating strategies to limit hybridisation were produced, and the preparation of a major manuscript on the colonisation, status and trends in abundance of the three fur seal species at Macquarie Island has been completed and will be submitted shortly.
Progress has been made of three main fronts:
1. Completed field season at Macquarie Island and maintenance of the annual surveys of pup production (DNA sampling for species identification), pup tagging and resighting of individual seals for assessment of reproductive performance and survival for long-term demographic analyses.
2. Two publications in the journal Molecular Ecology on reproductive success of hybrids and mating strategies to limit hybridisation,
3. The preparation of a major manuscript on the colonisation, status and trends in abundance of the three fur seal species at Macquarie Island.
We plan to make significant developments in demographic database management and analyses over the 08/09.
Taken from the 2008-2009 Progress Report:
The 'conservation and management of fur seals in the Antarctic marine ecosystem' research program (hereafter referred to as "the fur seal program") aims to provide key performance measures for recovering fur seal populations, and key Antarctic State of the Environment indicators, to monitor how biological and physical oceanographic change in Southern Ocean ecosystems, effects the reproductive performance of high trophic-level predators such as fur seals. Fur seals were the most heavily exploited of all of the Antarctic marine biota, and populations on both of Australia's subantarctic islands (Macquarie and the Heard and MacDonald Islands, HIMI), have yet to recover to pre-sealing numbers.
Over the last twenty years (1986-2007), research undertaken on this and former programs (managed by Dr Peter Shaughnessy) have aimed to provide information on:
- the population status and ecology of recovering fur seal populations on Macquarie and Heard Islands,
- species identification and composition,
- the extent, trends, processes and implications of hybridisation among fur seals at Macquarie Island,
- the impact of commercial sealing on the genetic variation and population structure of southern ocean fur seal populations,
- the foraging ecology and lactation strategies of fur seals at Heard and Macquarie Islands,
- the trophic linkages between fur seals and commercial fisheries at Macquarie and Heard Islands, and
- how physical and biological oceanographic changes affect the reproductive performance of fur seals.
The fur seal program has successfully achieved these aims, and in doing so made significant contributions to implementing the many milestones of Australia's Antarctic Science Strategy (both past and present). In addition, the program has provided important advice on the conservation and management of Southern Ocean fur seal populations and marine systems, including:
- providing information to Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to assist ecological sustainable development (ESD) of the Patagonian toothfish fisheries around Macquarie and Heard Islands.
- proving information to Environment Australia (now DEWR) on the distribution of fur seal foraging effort to assist planning and development of the Macquarie Island Marine Park.
- providing specific data on the status of the subantarctic fur seal at Macquarie Island to DEWR, and assisting as a member of the subantarctic fur seal Recovery Team.
- providing regular updates on the status of fur seal populations at Macquarie and Heard Islands to the SCAR Expert Group on Seals.
- reporting to the Antarctic State of the Environment (Indicator 32).
The fur seal program is now one of the longest standing ongoing biological studies supported by the Australian Antarctic Division, providing an important time-series of population recovery following human exploitation, and most recently (after identification of sensitive demographic responses to small changes in sea surface temperatures), important ecological performance indicators and reference points that provide some of the best examples of how climate change may impact high trophic-level predator populations in the Southern Ocean.
The next five years (2008-2012)
Over the next five years, the fur seal program aims to build on the above successes and continue core aspects population monitoring and demography. There will be a continued focus on undertaking research with clear applied management applications and a strong strategic focus targeting specific priorities of Australia's Antarctic Science Program Science Strategy. Applied applications include ESD of fisheries, MPA management and planning, acting on research and management priorities set out in the Department of the Environment and Heritage "The Action Plan for Australian Seals", the Recovery Plans for the Subantarctic fur seal and Antarctic State of the Environment reporting (SEO Indicator No. 32). All of these are in accord with and will help implement Australia's Oceans Policy.
The last five years of the fur seal program have seen considerable advancement in our understanding of the extent, trends and processes that facilitate and limit hybridisation among the three fur seal species at Macquarie Island. We have also identified highly significant relationships between fur seal reproductive success (fecundity and pup growth rates) and small changes to local sea surface temperature (STT) north of Macquarie Island associated with the subantarctic front. We also have a considerable data base on the survival and reproductive success of known-aged animals extending back to the early 1990s, and because of significant progress in developing molecular methods for identification of species and hybrids over the last five years, we now also have detailed genotype data for a large proportion of these seals (approx. 1,300).
With these data sets and knowledge, the focus of the fur seal program over the next five years will be to integrate molecular, demographic and oceanographic data to provide further insights into the how climatic and oceanographic changes in the Southern Ocean affect fur seal population on both annual and lifetime scales. The specific aims of the fur seal program will be to:
1. Maintain the population monitoring programs at Macquarie and Heard Islands
2. Maintain the long-term demographic program at Macquarie Island and analysis of data to determine age-specific survival and fecundity rates for each species and determine the reproductive costs of hybridisation.
3. Calculate annual changes in foraging ecology, survival, recruitment, reproductive rates and pup growth, and relate these to annual changes in regional oceanography.
The scientific relevance of these objectives are detailed below.
Progress against objectives:
Progress has been made of three main fronts:
1. Field season at Macquarie Island during the 2008/09 summer has been completed. This included maintenance of the annual surveys of pup production (DNA sampling for species identification), pup tagging and resighting of individual seals for assessment of reproductive performance and survival for long-term demographic analyses.
2. A publication titled: "Fur seals at Macquarie Island: post-sealing colonisation, trends in abundance and hybridisation of three fur seals species" has been accepted for publication in Polar Biology.
3. Some database maintenance has been undertaken on the demographic database.
Taken from the 2010-2011 Progress Report:
Public summary of the season progress:
A successful field season was undertaken at Macquarie Island during the 10/11 season. This included maintenance of the annual surveys of pup production (DNA sampling for species identification), pup tagging and resighting of individual seals for assessment of reproductive performance and survival for long-term demographic analyses. A total of 255 pups were recorded this season, about an 8% increases since the 2009/10 season and more than any previous year since recolonisation. A new PhD program has commenced this year the focus will be analyses of the 25 year demographic dataset, and the impacts of climate change on population recovery.
Download page for Australian Antarctic Data Centre
(Click for Interactive Map)
See the individual reports for further information.
The dates provided in temporal coverage for 2007/2008 are approximate only.
Taken from the 2008-2009 Progress Report:
Variations to work plan or objectives:
Each year since the 2002/03 season, permit restrictions have impacted substantially on both the work plan and ability of the program to meet its ... objectives. In this most recent year the following work was not able to proceed:
- weighing of pups to monitor growth
- marking of Hookers sea lions in order to better assess their predation impacts on fur seals.
Despite animal ethics approval to weigh pups, and mark sea lions we have now not been able to monitor inter-annual changes in pup growth rates in the population since 2002. This has impacted on the programs ability to deliver its obligations to the Antarctic State of the Environment reporting process (Indicator 32).
Location: Fieldwork was undertaken at Macquarie Island 08/09 summer. Activities included:
- Monitoring of the fur seal population including assessment of pup production, mortality rates and censusing the juvenile and adult population.
- Biopsies were taken from most pups for DNA assessment of species/hybrid identity, and phenotypic assessments were also made.
- Observations were undertaken to re-sight tagged animals, and to identify mother/pup pairs for long-term demographic studies (reproductive success and survival).
- Faecal samples were collected for on-going dietary studies.
Progress and timeline: As the Macquarie Island program is long-term, completion of any field component is seasonal, prior to the next field-stage that commences in November 2009.
Reproductive and survival data are being entered into a database and these data are currently being worked-up to develop correlates with oceanographic data and reproductive success and pup growth parameters, and determine annual changes in relative survival and the fitness costs of hybridisation.
Difficulties affecting project:
The permit modifications have significantly impacted the standardised monitoring program that has been in place for over 15 years. It appears that we will no longer be able to record important 'environmental context' data in the form of pup growth and maternal provisioning rates (indices of food availability). We will continue to seek approval to at least weigh pups over future seasons. Pup growth data to 90 days age correlate significantly with summer SSTs, which are likely to provide a good proxy for regional changes in primary/secondary production, and important environmental indicators of the implications of warming ocean temperature associated with climate change.
These data are publicly available for download from the URL given below or from the OBIS web site.
Data Set Progress
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netCDF > NETwork Common Data Format
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