Bearded seal behaviour in relation to sea ice

Bearded seals are a circumpolar species with a coastal distribution, since the food they prefer is found near, at or in the bottom, in relatively shallow waters. Bearded seals are dependent on sea ice for most aspects of their life cycle. They give birth on ice, mate in association with it, and moult and rest on it. Changes in the extent and type(s) of sea ice will certainly have negative impacts on the distribution and survivorship of bearded seals, which will in turn have impacts both up and down the arctic food-chain. In this project we will undertake detailed analyses of habitat choice, foraging areas, activity budgets and movement patterns as well as exploring diet via fatty-acid analyses and stable isotopes with tissue samples collected from our captured seals. These investigations will improve our predictive capacity with regard to how climate change will impact this important arctic seal. Newly developed GPS satellite tags will be used in this project that provide all of the “standard” information about diving and locations, but in addition measure and transmit oceanographic data (salinity and temperature with a high level of precision) in the areas where the seals swim and dive.