Sarah Brown

2016 Summer Internship Program

Ice-associated seal and polar bear identification

Sarah BrownOver the summer I was able to work with Erin Richmond and Erin Moreland in the Polar Ecosystems Program in the Alaska Fisheries Science Center at NOAA. This program is working on polar bear and ice seal abundance estimates for the Chukchi and East Siberian Seas. Polar bears, ringed seals, and bearded seals are all protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and polar bears and ringed seal are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but there are not comprehensive abundance estimates for these species. Accurate abundance estimates are important for properly managing and protecting these species and their habitats, but also for understanding how population dynamics are changing in response to human and environmental impacts (e.g. climate change). Using aerial survey data I identified and counted the number of polar bears and seals in a particular set of digital images and then used corresponding thermal images to test a unique software. This software is written to detect “hot spots”, or masses that are higher in temperature than their surrounding environment, that are specifically polar bears or ice seals while filtering out the hotspots that are anomalies (rocks, melt pools, dirty ice). Since the development of this software is still in it’s early stages I was able to test the effectiveness of the current version and learn about the process of software development and troubleshooting when things aren’t working exactly right.

Outside of the work itself I was able to talk to NOAA and JISAO employees about their work and experiences which provided insight into possible college/career paths I could choose to follow in the future. Before this summer I had little to no idea what I would do after graduation. Now I know that I want to learn more about Arctic ecosystems and biology with a specific interest in data analytics. This internship provided the opportunity to meet some fantastic people, gain valuable work experience, and explore a beautiful region of the US.



Sarah's research poster

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