Signed, SEALED, and Delivered! A Thrilling Trip to the Ringed Seal’s Arctic Habitat with Scientist Katie Florko

Hello, Earth Rangers! My name is Katie Florko. I am a research scientist who studies Arctic marine mammal movement patterns and behaviour. I recently finished my PhD at the University of British Columbia. Most of my work takes place in Hudson Bay, in the far north of Canada. This year, when you adopt a ringed seal from Earth Rangers, you’re supporting me and my research! You can learn more about ringed seals and adopt one in the Earth Rangers App.

Since September, I’ve been busy analyzing ringed seal movement patterns. These seals wore tags that recorded their movement and diving patterns. From this, we’re able to see where seals forage for food and what areas might be important to protect. This is a tricky project!

On one hand, we think the most important areas to protect are the areas the seals are spending the most time. But these tend to be the areas with the least fish, where it takes the seals longer to look for food. My research helps to measure seals’ movements through fish populations. That way, we can better understand which areas we need to protect to help seals.

And that’s not all! I’m also involved in projects on harbour seals and narwhals. This past summer, I was able to help out with tagging harbour seals in western Hudson Bay. I also went on aerial surveys in the high Arctic, where we saw walrus, narwhals, and lots of seals!

Fieldwork for tagging seals typically happens from the ice edge in the spring, or from the shore in the summer. This is the most exciting part of the job! But an equally important and almost as fun part is spending the fall and winter uncovering the secret lives of seals through the data we collect from their tags. My fellow scientists and I use this data to piece together the story. Then we share our insights with each other and with folks who work to protect seals. Before we know it, we’re planning next spring’s fieldwork!