Weddell seals in Antarctica are test subjects for new research technologies

Twenty five Weddell seals are being kitted out with brand new experimental cameras, so that scientists can find out more about the effectiveness of the newly-created Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA).

Along with the cameras, marine ecologist Kimberly Goetz and three other scientists are temporarily equipping the seals with jaw accelerometers, GPS and time depth recorders.

The cameras on the seals will record 360 degrees and Dr Goetz says that "these cameras have not been used before. It is very experimental, but it will allow us to experience what the seals are seeing under the ice".

They want to determine what the seals are eating, the depth at which they are eating and whether they are able to catch prey.

The technology will be removed after a week.

The research aims to examine how effective the MPA is in conserving species like the Weddell seals. The MPA is a whopping 1.55 million square kilometres  so evaluating it is no small feat.

Determining the marine reserve's benefits depends on how heavily the seals rely on its eco system. 

This week long study is the first of two. The second will begin in February, during the early pregnancies of the seals.

Scientists during this trip will use ultrasounds to determine if seals are expecting.

 If pregnant seals fail to give birth the following spring, it will suggest that they were not able to find enough food to support their developing babies. 

"We want to know how their movements are linked with over winter foraging and reproductive success the following year" says Dr Goetze.