Map showing on-effort U. S. survey tracks and Russian flight tracks during the 2012 ice-seal Bering Sea study. Scientists from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory's Polar Ecosystems Program, in collaboration with Russian colleagues, performed synoptic wealth and circulation studies for the four species of ice-associated seals which are recognized to reproduce and occupy in the Bering Sea during the springtime and summer season. The U. S. team used airstrips in Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island, and St. Paul, in the Pribilof Islands, to get to one of the most remote areas of sea ice in the central Bering Sea. The Russian team started western Bering Sea surveys in mid-April from Ossora, Russia, on the Kamchatka Peninsula and worked their way north to the Bering Strait. Combined Canon Mark III 1Ds digital SLR cameras and FLIR SC645 thermal imagers mounted in the stomach port of a NOAA Twin Otter airplane. Each thermal imager was matched with a Canon Mark III 1Ds digital single-lens response camera with a 100-mm Zeiss lens. The mixed thermal swath size was about 1,500 ft at an altitude of 1,000 ft. A contracted Aero Commander aircraft carried two sets of combined thermal imagers and digital SLR electronic cameras and surveyed an optimum swath size of around 900 ft. Ultimately, this job will provide the first detailed estimates of abundance for the four varieties of ice-associated seals found in the Okhotsk and Bering Seas. Paired thermal and aesthetic images, of a bearded seal on Bering Sea pack ice, collected during the 2012 survey.
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