Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dead Harbor Seal Pup on Manomet Beach and Examination by the Ecology Club at Northbrook Academy

The New England Aquarium's Marine Rescue Program called NECWA to see if Krill could check out a report of a dead baby seal on a Manomet beach. The Anderson's called in this sighting which is their second sighting of a dead seal on their beach in less than a month. But this is the time of year that young seal carcasses wash ashore for these young animals have a difficult first year and many don't survive.

The seal carcass was just below the high tide mark so Krill removed the carcass from the beach for fear that it would be washed away at the next high tide or taken away by scavengers like coyotes. NECWA has a marine mammal permit from the federal government that allows NECWA staff to remove marine mammal parts for research and educational opportunities. This appeared to be a harbor seal pup who was possibly attacked by coyotes or dogs (see puncture wounds on animal's head). Coyotes are one of the main predators for seals when they are on beaches, especially seal pups or juveniles.

Krill was scheduled to lead an Ecology Club later that afternoon for students at Northbrook Academy in Raynham, MA. So Krill headed west toward Raynham to see if her students would be interested in participating in the Level A examination of this carcass. Level A examinations involve the collection of external measurements and photographs of the carcass. The information collected from this seal pup will be provided to the New England Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Team as they will incorporate the information into their extensive database.

Students in the Ecology Club were excited to be part of this scientific activity and everyone helped out. Tyler and Jonah helped measure the animal while Mickaela, Emily, Bethany, Paloma, Maddy, Danny, Abby, Brendan and Emily took turns taking photographs and recording data. Measurements collected included the full length of the seal pup as well as its girth. Other measurements also recorded included flipper length and the number of teeth in both the upper and lower jaws.

Although not always a pleasant or preferred activity, the examination of carcasses provides useful and meaningful information that scientists use to determine cause of death and mortality rates for seals and other marine wildlife. Students in Northbrook's Academy Ecology Club had an incredible opportunity by being part of this process. And this hands-on experience will help them gain a better understanding and appreciation for the work that field biologists like Krill and other's do in our New England area.
Krill continues to be impressed with the level of excellence, interest and motivation displayed by Northbrook Academy students. The teachers and co-founders of Northbrook Academy, Paula Boyle and Paul Harrison, are the driving force behind this private school that is committed to excellence in learning and that encourages exploration and growth on an individual basis.
Way to go Northbrook Academy students and staff! This is what learning and life are all about.To learn more about Northbrook Academy, go to their website at www.northbrookacademy.org.