Thermoregulation of Freely Diving Juvenile Northern Elephant Seals

Arina Favilla – Costa Lab

Positions: 1 intern

Tentative dates: flexible, late March-June 2021 for in-person work, June – September 2021 for remote work

Project Location: remote, Coastal Science Campus, day trips to Año Nuevo State Park

Project Background: Studying the thermal physiology of a freely diving animal can be challenging but animal-borne biologgers have made it possible to remotely collect high resolution data to enhance our understanding of their physiological adaptations and plasticity. My project combines physiological data recorded on biologgers with morphometric data to model the heat transfer of a diving juvenile elephant seal. Prior to attaching the biologgers, I collect infrared and photogrammetric images of juvenile elephant seals as well as ultrasound images of their blubber depth. These images will provide data for creating a 3D model of the seal and extrapolating point measurements to gain insight into whole body thermal dynamics. Depending on the intern’s interest, potential projects could focus on investigating how heat flux varies across body locations during the dive and estimating whole body heat transfer, or examining how core body and skin temperature vary in relation to diving behavior.

Intern duties: Depending on the chosen project, the intern may use ImageJ and Photomodeler for image analysis and 3D modeling, Matlab for visualizing biologger data and R for performing stats and making figures. These projects can be done remotely. If available in the spring quarter, the intern can also help with the fieldwork associated with the project and the post-deployment calibration of the biologger sensors.

Intern qualifications: Some knowledge about marine mammal adaptations and physiology would be helpful but not required. No previous experience with the image analysis software is necessary. Some basic understanding of coding language and motivation to become familiar with coding in Matlab or R is all that is needed. For fieldwork in the spring, the intern must feel comfortable in field settings (usually pretty chilly and sandy) and work well in a team. The intern will be asked to help with some team-lifting. Good data-recording skills (good handwriting is a plus!) and attention to detail and one’s surroundings are essential. Ideally the sight of blood does not make them queasy.

Do you recommend the intern(s) volunteer in your lab during Spring quarter?
Yes, especially if the intern would like to participate in the fieldwork and more of the hands-on activities associated with my project. This will require completion of paperwork and training (online and in-person) and adherence to appropriate protocols for in-person work.

UC Santa Cruz Land Acknowledgement

“The land from which we base our work is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.”