Sea Lions on display as Mote does research

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SARASOTA - It's very rare to have an opportunity to see researchers getting up close and personal as they study three unique sea lions. But now you will have that opportunity at Mote Marine Laboratory.

Patagonian sea lions don't typically live in the U.S. in the wild, or even in captivity. But Mote’s three have been there as part of a traveling exhibit since December.

“We felt as though this would be a perfect opportunity to fill in some gaps and collect some novelties, with Patagonians in this training circumstance, to get at the heart of the physiology,” says Mote’s Joe Gaspard.

During the research presentations, trainers will collect data that allows them to calculate their metabolic rate, and in turn, refine their care. “We're examining the heart rate, you saw Stella wearing the harness; and with the dome we're getting the oxygen exchange rate, so we're getting the consumption of oxygen the respiration of the CO2. Then we can calculate the animal’s metabolic rate, and that refines our care as well as wild research initiatives,” says Gaspard.

And he says the impact of that research extends far beyond what you see at Mote. “The oceans are Earth's life support system. We say that from the aquarium side, but the interconnectedness of nature is very important. So we're looking at if these species start to encounter some difficulties, we're next. So we're getting at the heart of some of these issues...ultimately the world issues.”