16 July, 1998

Myrtle Brijbasi

TEA/Alaska - 98

Journal Entry 7 - July 16, 1998

Alaska SeaLife Center, AK

Hello from Seward! I hope you are enjoying my journals so far. I know you have rejoined me to eagerly find out about the new procedure Dr. Ben-David is supposed to demonstrate to us today. I am too. But before I go into the details of the day, just savor this. Last evening Dr. Ben-David invited us to dinner at her home. It was a delicious

dinner of halibut with her secret seasonings and special trimmings. It was indeed a delightful evening and we also socialized with the other members of the research team, Olav and Susanne - research assistants, Dr. Terry Williams and Shawn Noren, the research physiologists.

The morning routine of cleaning the outdoor laboratory and kennels was done by Dr. Ben- David and myself, while the behavioral observations were done by Elisa and Noa. Dr. Ben-David fed the river otters while I observed. The otters were very curious about me. They made puffing, grunting and squealing sounds as they moved around. They also kept turning around to look at me or would rush past me then turn around to look, as though with great suspicion. I realized that it was normal for them to be curious about new individuals entering the ODL. It is also important to move cautiously and remain as quiet as possible so that they aren't scared away. During the cleaning and feeding sessions, we had visitors. Dr. Ben-David was videotaped and interviewed by Jack Hannah from Animal Planet about her research and the wonderful world of river otters. They also videotaped the otters. Fortunately, the otters were active.

During the afternoon session, Naked (named after Naked Island from where he was captured), one of the otters was anesthetized and bled for a blood sample to assess his red blood cell count. There were some concerns with this animal and anemia. In order to sedate him, she first fed him with fish that were injected with half of the anesthesia. The other half of the dosage of anesthesia was used to dart the animal. This was done with a dart blower and with the greatest precision. He was targeted and hit the first time. In a few minutes his activity was slowing down and he was "out like a light". His head was placed on a blanket and then later covered with the blanket. This was just for some comfort. Some blood was then drawn from the jugular vein. The volume extracted was distributed into a pretreated vial, which was vigorously inverted to ensure preservation of the sample for testing later on. The remaining portion was used to prepare about six-eight blood smears for immediate analysis. Both the slides and the vial were given to the veterinarian at the SeaLife Center. The otter is then routinely weighed after the procedure. Good news!!!!!!! Naked had gained six pounds since the last bleeding, and the immediate result from the vet indicated that his hematocrit (% of red blood cells) had increased from 21 to 36 percent. Being reassured that he would be fine, Dr. Ben-David placed him in one of the dens.

We returned to the office and continued making computer data entry. Dr. Terry Williams, Shawn Noren, and Olav Ormseth completed the treadmill-physiology apparatus and installed it into one of the kennels. It was very interesting to observe the curious otters investigate this apparatus. Not only did they climb up to the panel with all of the dials, but some ventured into the experimental box. Here ends another interesting day with the river otters. What's in store for tomorrow? I don't know. However, if you join me again tomorrow you and I will both find out what will take place. So long from Seward.

Dr. Terry Williams (plaid shirt) and her PhD student Shawn Norin (white shirt) set up the equipment to measure oxygen consumption (metabolic rate) of the otters.

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