Southern Elephant Seal CTD tag data 2004 - 2013

Data set information

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Data holding centreBritish Oceanographic Data Centre
CountryUnited Kingdom  United Kingdom
ProjectMarine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole (MEOP-Norway)(MEOP-Norway)
Time period2004-2013
Geographical area

Southern Ocean


Temperature of the water column; Electrical conductivity of the water column




For around a decade, southern elephant seals (mirounga leonina) have been used to collect hydrographic (temperature & salinity) profiles in the Southern Ocean. CTD-SRDLs (Conductivity Temperature Depth –Satellite Relayed Data Loggers) attached to seals' heads in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic locations measure water property profiles during dives and transmit data using the ARGOS (Advanced Research & Global Observation Satellite) network (Fedak 2013). CTD-SRDLs are built by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU, University of St Andrews, UK); they include miniaturised CTD units made by Valeport Ltd. When seals are foraging at sea 2.5 profiles can be obtained daily, on average. Profiles average 500m depth, but can be 2000m in extreme cases (Boehme et al. 2009, Roquet et al. 2011). Deployment efforts have been very intensive in the Southern Indian Ocean, with biannual campaigns in the Kerguelen Islands since 2004 and many deployments in Davis and Casey Antarctic stations (Roquet et al., 2013) more recently. 207 CTD-SRDL tags have been deployed there, giving about 75,000 hydrographic profiles in the Kerguelen Plateau area. About two thirds of the dataset was obtained between 2011 & 2013 as a consequence of intensive Australian Antarctic station deployments. There is also regular data since 2004 from French and Franco-Australian Kerguelen Island deployments. Although not included here, many CTD-SRDL tags deployed in the Kerguelen Islands included a fluorimeter. Fluorescence profiles can be used as a proxy for chlorophyll content (Guinet et al. 2013, Blain et al. 2013). Seal-derived hydrographic data have been used successfully to improve understanding of elephant seal foraging strategies and their success (Biuw et al., 2007, Bailleul, 2007). They provide detailed hydrographic observations in places and seasons with virtually no other data sources (Roquet et al. 2009, Ohshima et al. 2013, Roquet et al. 2013). Hydrographic data available in this dataset were edited using an Argo-inspired procedure and then visually. Each CTD-SRDL dataset was adjusted using several delayed-mode techniques, including a temperature offset correction and a linear-in-pressure salinity correction - described in Roquet et al. (2011). Adjusted hydrographic data have estimated accuracies of about +/-0.03oC and +/-0.05 psu (practical salinity unit). The salinity accuracy depends largely on the distribution of CTD data for any given CTD-SRDL, which decides the quality of adjustment parameters. Adjustments are best when hydrographic profiles are available in the region between the Southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current Front and the Antarctic divergence (55oS-62oS latitude range in the Southern Indian Ocean). Several institutes provided funding for the associated programs and the logistics necessary for the fieldwork. The observatory MEMO (Mammifères Echantillonneurs du Milieu Marin), funded by CNRS institutes (INSU and INEE), carried out the French contribution to the study. The project received financial and logistical support from CNES (TOSCA program), the Institut Paul-Emile Victor (IPEV), the Total Foundation and ANR. MEMO is associated with the Coriolis centre, part of the SOERE consortium CTD02 (Coriolis-temps différé Observations Océaniques, PI: G. Reverdin), which distributes real-time and delayed-mode products. The Australian contribution came from the Australian Animal Tracking and Monitoring System, an Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) facility. The work was also supported by the Australian Government's Cooperative Research Centres Programme via the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystem Cooperative Research Centre. The University of Tasmania and Macquarie University's Animal Ethics Committees approved the animal handling. Both tagging programs are part of the MEOP (Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole) international consortium - an International Polar Year (IPY) project.

OriginatorsBritish Oceanographic Data Centre

Boehme, L., Lovell, P., Biuw, M., Roquet, F., Nicholson, J., Thorpe, S. E., Meredith, M. P. & Fedak, M. (2009) Technical note: animal-borne CTD-Satellite Relay Data Loggers for real-time oceanographic data collection., Ocean Science, 5, 685-695 (2009); Blain, S., Renaut, S., Xing, X., Claustre, H., and Guinet, C. (2013) Instrumented elephant seals reveal the seasonality in chlorophyll and light-mixing regime in the iron-fertilized Southern Ocean., Geophysical Research Letters, 40, 2013GL058065 (2013); Biuw, M., etal (2007) Variations in behavior and condition of a Southern Ocean top predator in relation to in situ oceanographic conditions, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 13705-13710 (2007); Bailleul, F., Charrassin, J.-B., Monestiez, P., Roquet, F., Biuw, M., and Guinet, C. (2007) Successful foraging zones of southern elephant seals from Kerguelen Islands in relation to oceanographic conditions, Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B: Biological Sciences, 362, 2169-2181; Roquet, F. etal (2013) Estimates of the Southern Ocean General Circulation Improved by Animal-Borne Instruments, Geophysical Research Letters, 2013GL058304 (2013); Ohshima, K. I., Fukamachi, Y., Williams, G. D., Nihashi, S., Roquet, F., Kitade, Y., Tamura, T., Hirano, D., Herraiz-Borreguero, L., Field, I., Hindell, M., Aoki, S., and Wakatsuchi, M. (2013) Antarctic Bottom Water production by intense sea-ice formation in the Cape Darnley polynya, Nature Geosci., 6, 235-240 (2013).; Guinet, C., etal (2013) Calibration procedures and first dataset of Southern Ocean chlorophyll a profiles collected by elephant seals equipped with a newly developed CTD-fluorescence tags, Earth System Science Data, 5, 15-29 (2013); Fedak, M. A. (2013) The impact of animal platforms on polar ocean observation., Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 88-89, 7-13 (2013); Roquet, F., Park, Y.-H., Guinet, C., Bailleul, F., and Charrassin, J.-B. (2009) Observations of the Fawn Trough Current over the Kerguelen Plateau from instrumented elephant seals, J. Mar. Syst., 78, 377-393 (2009).; Roquet, F., Charrassin, J.-B., Marchand, S., Boehme, L., Fedak, M., Reverdin, G., and Guinet, C. (2011) Delayed-Mode Calibration of Hydrographic Data Obtained from Animal-Borne Satellite Relay Data Loggers., J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 28, 787-801 (2011).

Data web site
OrganisationBritish Oceanographic Data Centre
ContactPolly Hadžiabdić (Head of the BODC Requests Team)

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Collating centreBritish Oceanographic Data Centre
Local identifier1048SOTAGDATA
Global identifier6072
Last revised2015-09-14