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Journals 2004/2005

Barbara Simon-Waters
East Carteret High School, Beaufort, NC

"Foraging ecology of Northern elephant seals"
University of California, Santa Cruz
July 11-21, 2004
Journal Index:
July 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18

      19 - 20 - 21

July 13, 2004

I arrived at the lab at 7:05am ready for the drive to Ano Nuevo State Reserve. I rode with Gitte while everyone else (Carey, Matt, Nicole, Joy, and Heather) rode in the truck with the cage for the intended captured elephant seal. We arrived at Ano Nuevo about a half an hour later and drove past the guard gate. No one was there so Gitte left a note indicating that we were going to enter a restricted area. It was very important that if an animal was to be captured, it had to completed before tourists were on the beach. We parked at a small area once we were through the restricted gate while the truck went up ahead and parked at the base of the beach. As Gitte and I walked down the path, we heard vocalizations from of the male elephant seals resonating throughout the entire beach area. I focused my attention on the beach as there must have been about 30 huge elephant seals, mostly males. Carey and Gitte surveyed the group but did not find an appropriately sized seal. There were two females and several weaners but they were too small for the study. Carey was disappointed but not surprised because it was somewhat of a long shot that an elephant seal of the desired size would be found on the beach.

We left the reserve and agreed to stop at a favorite coffee haunt in Davenport known as Whale City Bakery Bar and Grill. It is so named because people stop for coffee and freshly baked pastries such as huge muffins and chocolate croissants sitting at the tables and chairs out front watching the migration of blue whales. However, upon entering the coffee shop, I spied a gentleman that only I recognized from television. The others, being only in their 20's or early 30's, were too young to realize who this person was. We met at the coffee bar, pouring our coffee, adding cream, and chatting about basically nothing. I was amazed to see Richard Thomas aka John-Boy of The Waltons fame standing next to me. The others were surprised to think that I knew someone out here so I had to explain who the mystery man was. Needless to say, they were not as impressed as I was.

We returned to the lab and proceeded to prepare the fish for Forrest and LT. Forrest was getting 2kg and LT only .5kg. We went to the fish food station running into several groups of visitors at the lab- a group of veterinarians and a high school group. We then took the pool temperatures of the two elephant seals and returned to the lab to weigh out the fish and bring them to the same temperature as the pools which today was 15.7°C. I fed the fish to both seals who had no trouble devouring the fish.

After lunch Carey was going to work on her lecture for tomorrow and I proceeded to work on finding websites useful to this area of research. There were many links on the UCSC Costa webpage. I not only have the web address but a short blurb about each website.

Early in the afternoon, we had the task of switching the pools of the two elephant seals. Forrest quickly exited his pool and passed through his doorway. LT was more reluctant, but with a little coaxing, he, too, passed through his doorway and proceeded down the walkway towards Forrest. The two elephant seals playfully exchanged shoves and then LT took off for the much larger pool. I was amazed at his speed and determination to get to the larger pool. Forrest looked at us as if to say "You want me to go to THAT little pool?" He stalled and turned around constantly looking back at us. He eventually made his way to the littler pool. Both seals were going to be fed again later in the day.

After all of this, Carey needed to resume her work on her lecture and said I was free for the rest of the afternoon. I decided to use it to explore Santa Cruz on foot. I walked for 3 hours from the hotel along Ocean Street to the Boardwalk, down the Pier where I purchased a snapper sandwich from the Stagnaro Bros. Seafood Grill (there is also a restaurant.) I ate my sandwich sitting on a bench at the end of the pier surrounded by hungry sea gulls ready to eat anything that I dropped. I asked about the downtown part of Santa Cruz from a tourist information center and she pointed to Pacific Avenue. I walked along Pacific Avenue eventually reaching the downtown section. Carey was right...lots of movie theaters, shops, and small eclectic restaurants. Also the PEOPLE!!! I saw a variety of shades of hair, many holdovers from the 60's, one young guy that looked like John Lennon, a fat guy in tight, shiny, green basketball shorts without a shirt (not really an image I want to remember), a young guy with huge dreadlocks walking a very small girl, along with several musicians and a juggler. It was certainly a mixed bag of looks and personalities. I walked until I was at the Clock Tower and then turned on Water Street. I knew that this would eventually connect with Ocean Street and back to the hotel. I am truly amazed how nice people are here. They actually stop to let people cross the street and generally obey all the lights and stop signs taking turns when at a four-way stop. Today was a very warm day here. I did bring my sweatshirt with me but did not need it. I was very warm when I arrived at the hotel. I emailed Laura for the details of tomorrow's adventure with the tower and the sea otter but have not heard from her yet. I will probably plan to arrive about 8am. I have met so many people at the lab and am remembering everyone's name. After so many years of teaching I am used to learning names quickly. I am going to review my pictures now and recharge my camera for tomorrow. Good night!!

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