The class has been accompanying Tracy Wurth on her monk seal surveys and yesterday some of us helped her to tag a yearling seal
One of the great things about Midway is the first-hand experience of seeing management and conservation in action. Yesterday Amy, Meagan and I helped Tracy to tag a young seal that was born last year, but did not wean until after the monk seal team departed Midway. The NMFS monk seal program attempts to tag all of the seals born each year so they can track the demography of this highly endangered species. They wait to tag them until after weaning to avoid disturbing the pups while they are nursing, which typically lasts about 5 weeks.
The seal was a female – Tracy had already marked her with bleach (Y16), but she needed to receive a permanent identification system. So, the seal received two pink flipper tags (PT-30 and PT-31) and a Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag, placed sub-cutaneously on her hip (many domestic animals and pets are also tagged this way). Tracy measured the length and girth of the seal (good indicators of body condition) and retained a tiny skin sample from her flipper for genetic analysis. The whole process took only a few minutes.
After the tagging was complete, PT-30 (or Duke as we like to think of her, even if it is not a very feminine name) looked back at us a little balefully and then humped her way down into the water. We hope that she finds a lot to eat, gets fat and survives until adulthood.