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Field Research: Gray Seal Pup Assessments – Part 3

While hopes were high that we would be able to have another full day of sampling, increasing winds meant our departure time was moved up from Thursday morning to Wednesday afternoon at 2pm. Still, we had time to sample for a half day.

Though still quite overcast, we went to the dunes for sunrise. It was a beautiful morning that turned into a warm and sunny winter day.  A coyote was sighted on the beach near the seals. While coyotes have been on Monomoy for years, it was the first time one was seen during this trip.


Sunrise on our last day.

Looking For Seals

Looking for seals.

Between both sampling teams, we sampled a total of 39 animals by the time we went back to the lighthouse to pack. But 39 was such an odd number. So, a small team of veterans (myself included) restocked supplies and went out for just one more. In just 15 minutes we had animal 40 and went back to start bringing gear to the beach for pickup.

It was a shame to only have one full day on the island but we managed a good sample set for Wendy’s investigations of influenza in this population as well as for studies happening at Mystic Aquarium, where blood and skin samples are being used for immune function studies and to identify genetic markers of health. In addition, fecal swabs are providing information on the gut microbiome; or what bacteria are ‘normal’ in the gut of wild seal pups.

Field work is one of my favorite parts of my job, and it is a great reminder of why we do what we do; what it is we are working to protect. It was also great to see all the new participants enjoy themselves, and to have chance to share with them what goes on in the lab after samples are collected.

This was a great season to be back on Monomoy, even if it was a shortened experience. Being early in the season, there were still a lot of small pups with lanugo (the white coat they are born with) and there was a chance that a team would get back out before the end of the season to sample more animals.

Seal on beach
Seals on the beach

Young seal pups with Lanugo.

Seals on beach

Grey seals on the beach of Monomoy Island.

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