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24 October, 2003

It's Condition Fun (somewhere between Condition 2 and Condition 1) outside today. We tried to take advantage of a lull in the storm to check on a few seal colonies, but low visibility and superior decision-making skills convinced us that it was not the best day to travel in flat light through blowing snow across an endless white plain with few distinguishing characteristics. Even the seals seem to have decided to take a day off from lolling about on the ice and those without babies are spending the day in the relatively warm (28F) and decidedly calmer waters.

This is a good day to introduce a few of the members of the seal team. I'll put a few into today's journal, and get the rest in over the next few days. I've asked each team member to write a bit about their background and interest in science as a career, their role in the Weddell Seal study, and their favorite cookie (let's get to what's really important).

Gillian Hadley is originally from Skaneateles, NY and now lives in Bozeman, Montana. She is a graduate student at Montana State University, working on her doctorate in ecology. Her project focuses on the population dynamics of the Weddell Seals. When asked why she has chosen a career in science, she said:

"After volunteering on wildlife projects after college, it seemed like ecology was the way to go as far as a 'career'. Opportunities to be outdoors figuring out what animals are up to, work in beautiful locations, and learning about the natural world make wildlife biology/ecology an attractive profession.

She has worked with sea turtles, desert tortoises, spotted owls, small mammals, and seals. The common goal with each project has been the understanding of wildlife populations and why they fluctuate." Her favorite cookie is a peanut butter cookie dipped in chocolate from the Food Coop in Arcata California. I must add that she is an avid ping-pong player and can tell you the locations of all the ping-pong tables at McMurdo.

Mark Johnston is a wildlife biologist who lives in Bozeman, Montana. He has also lived in Maryland and Florida. Here's what he has to say about himself:

"When I was young there were two things I wanted to do in life, work with animals and explore far away places. I'm the luckiest guy on Earth because my job allows me to do both. To get to work with animals I was willing to volunteer in different places with different animals. The people I volunteered for admired my willingness to work and soon gave me paying jobs or pointed me in the direction of someone who would hire me. In this process I gained valuable skills and field experience, which made me a good candidate for cool jobs. I have worked with manatees, alligators, sea turtles, dolphins, wolves, all types of fish, and now Weddell Seals. I also love the mountains and have been fortunate enough to climb all over the world. Antarctica has been a life long dream, I am very grateful to be here, learning a lot and having an experience I will never forget. My official title on this project is Biological Science Technician. I like to think of it as 'how can I be helpful to anyone around me and help do whatever needs to be done'. My favorite cookie is whatever bag or box is open in front of me."

Mark has also shown himself to be a seal wrestler par excellence. Perhaps it is his past experience working with alligators that has made him so adept at catching the adult seals.

Daily Haiku:

Diverse team members

Experience in the field

Combining their skills

Mark Johnston and Gillian Hadley team up to tag a Weddell Seal

On a day like this, it's best to stick close to home.

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