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The World of Weddell Seals in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica: Sounds, Sex, and Violence

Professor of Psychology Jesse Purdy will share insights gained from his recent research trip to Antarctica in a lecture at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, in Room 105 of the F.W. Olin Building.

Purdy, a Brown Distinguished Research Professor, spent the fall semester in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, examining the use of vocalizations during social interactions and courtship of the Weddell seal in an attempt to understand their ability to survive in the cold, dark Antarctic fast-ice environment. Using sophisticated video and sound recording and analysis equipment, he recorded vocalizations of seals as they encountered one another under the ice. In all, he gathered more than 120 hours of videotape and 13 hours of vocalizations. In his talk, Purdy will show some of these video clips, provide examples of the vocalizations, consider the logistics of working on a remote ice camp and discuss the social and vocal interactions of the seals during courtship.

Last fall marked Purdy’s second visit to Antarctica to study the Weddell seal. He traveled there in the fall of 2001 with a team of collaborative researchers from Texas A&M University at Galveston, the University of Texas Marine Science Institute and the University of California at Santa Cruz. Purdy has worked with aquatic animals for more than 20 years. His work with fish, cuttlefish and marine mammals has focused on foraging, predator/prey interactions and basic issues in animal learning. This most recent project directly involved four Southwestern University students, who worked with him last summer analyzing 2001 data to help determine the kinds of information he would need to collect on his 2002 trip.