Our Friends of the Elephant Seal Community Science team contributes to data collection, dissemination and interpretation of scientific knowledge. You may see them looking for flipper tags and short-term dye marks, doing radio surveys or counting seals.
Traditionally called “citizen science,” community science allows people to take a role in sharing their observations about their surroundings. Community scientists collaborate with the professional science community, often through universities, museums and crowdsourcing websites. These observations inform scientific investigations and contribute to research databases.
The Friends of the Elephant Seal has three primary community science initiatives:
- Flipper Tag and Short-Term Dye Mark Resighting Program: Docents read and record flipper tag or short-term (hair) dye mark information to share with scientists. This helps to inform us about elephant seal migration and vital statistics. For example, two yearling seals re-sighted at Piedras Blancas had an interesting history of having migrated between Ano Nuevo (north of Santa Cruz) and the Piedras Blancas rookery, each in the first year of their lives! Read more here.
- VHF Radio Tag Survey team: Docents with special radio receivers are able to look for and identify signals from VHF frequencies to help researchers locate instrumented research seals. Northern elephant seals travel long distances and sometimes haul-out at great distances from the beaches at which researchers expect them to return. For example, in just the past year, we have located three research seals who have been on Piedras Blancas rookery beaches. The researchers are then able to retrieve their equipment and data for their studies.
- Colony Census team: Docents have periodically conducted counts of seals in various locations in the Piedras Blancas colony. These counts are important to document the expansion of seals to additional beaches and to identify potential for human interaction in these locations.