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Sea lions in the spot light

SARDI's Assoc Professor Simon Goldsworthy watches over a male sea lion as anaesthesia takes effect, before removing the conductivity, temperature and depth logger that the animal has been carrying for six months. The device has helped capture important oceanographic data.Groundbreaking research on Australian sea lions is featured as the cover story in the Jan-March edition of Australian Geographic.  Author, Roy Hunt, accompanies SARDI’s Assoc. Prof. Simon Goldsworthy and Dr Brad Page to Dangerous Reef, South Australia, to give a first hand account of this innovative work. 

Left: SARDI's Assoc Professor Simon Goldsworthy watches over a male sea lion as anaesthesia takes effect, before removing the conductivity, temperature and depth logger that the animal has been carrying for six months. The device has helped capture important oceanographic data.  Photo courtesy Roy Hunt.

Scientists’ camp for several weeks a year on Dangerous Reef, home to the world's largest surviving breeding colonies of the Australia sea lion, to collect data that is critical for the survival of both these amazing animals and one of Australia’s most biologically diverse and productive regions.  

A delicate procedure is used to fit female sea lions with GPS trackers and miniature ‘Crittercam’ video-recorders, providing scientists with a rare insight into the undersea world of sea lions.  Images collected from these amateur filmmakers significantly reveal their dietary preferences and hunting techniques. 

Research on the endangered Australian sea lion by SARDI's Assoc Professor Simon Goldsworthy (left) and Dr Brad Page has featured in the latest edition of Australian Geographic.Male sea lions, fitted with data collectors and submersible antenna, are also providing precious environmental data from the region.  Diving every eight or nine minutes they collect vast amounts of data, taking regular depth, temperature and salinity readings.  Once removed from the sea lion, downloaded data will document seasonal changes related to one of Australia’s most significant oceanographic phenomena – the Kangaroo Island – Eyre Peninsula upwelling. 

Left: Research on the endangered Australian sea lion by SARDI's Assoc Professor Simon Goldsworthy (left) and Dr Brad Page has featured in the latest edition of Australian Geographic.  Photo courtesy Roy Hunt.

This information is being collected as part of the national Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) that together with oceanographic instruments on ships, moorings and buoys, will monitor the marine environment around Australia.

Information collected from this work will help accurately predict the movements of predators and prey within the region, as well as identify key habitats and biodiversity indicators that can assist in the management of local marine ecosystems.  This is significant for the future of sea lions and other marine wildlife in the Bight as well as for commercial fisheries and aquaculture.

A gallery of photos taken by Australian Geographic for the story is at www.australiangeographic.com.au