In the period from July 27 to August 17, another summer expedition to study the Baikal seal population took place. Traditionally, field work took place on the Ushkany Islands, which are a place of accumulation of seals in the summer. The expedition was organized by the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IPEE RAS). It was attended by leading specialists of the IPEE RAS and students of the Faculty of Biology of the Moscow State University in the framework of educational practice, as well as employees of the Baikal branch of the VNIRO Federal State Budgetary Educational Institution and the Federal State Budgetary Institution «Zapovednoye Podlemorye».
Within the framework of the 2021 summer expedition, research work was carried out in three directions.
Firstly, visual observations of the seal deposit on the island of Thin were conducted, which included an assessment of the number of the seal population, the number of sick and non-molting animals. These works are a continuation of the work started as part of the 2020 summer expedition.
Secondly, the seals were recorded using a quadrocopter on three of the four islands of the Ushkany archipelago. Accounting on the island of Thin was carried out after visual accounting, which will help to take into account animals that were under water and were inaccessible for visual observation. The surveys carried out on the islands of Long and Round will allow a more accurate assessment of the total number of Baikal seals on the Ushkany Islands.
Thirdly, during the expedition, animals were captured to install satellite transmitters and take biological samples for further research. Trapping was carried out by specialized specialists from the Baikal branch of the VNIRO Federal State Budgetary Educational Institution. A total of 26 seals were captured, 17 of which were equipped with satellite transmitters to track the movement of the animal (approx. not a single animal was injured! :). Samples of wool, vibrissae and blood were taken from all animals for further laboratory tests.
This year, several Russian companies paid attention to the scientific research of the Baikal seal, which provided financial support to the project on the study of the Baikal seal population and directly transferred funds to the IPEE RAS. With the assistance of Lake Baikal Foundation, 3 million rubles were attracted to IPEE RAS. The study of the Baikal seal population is carried out within the framework of the integrated Baikal Seal Research Program approved by the IPEE RAS for the period up to 2025 with the support of Lake Baikal Foundation. We closely monitor the progress of research and are always happy to share news with you!