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Theoni Photopoulou

Dr Theoni Photopoulou

Research Fellow


University of St Andrews

Research summary

The Weddell Sea is an important area for understanding how climate affects ocean circulation. It is one of the few areas in the ocean where dense water forms near the surface and sinks to the bottom. This process acts like a pump for ocean currents, like the Gulf Stream, which influence our climate, and thus creates a feedback loop between ocean properties and climate. There is mounting evidence that the Weddell Sea is changing and we need to understand how changes in the ocean environment are affecting the animals and plants that are found in this part of the ocean. One of the animals that is found here all year round is the Weddell seal. It is a large mammal with few natural predators and it depends on sea ice for resting, moulting and breeding. As mammals, seals breathe air but dive deeply to find prey at depth. I am using movement tracks and diving information collected with animal-attached devices to draw conclusions about associations between seal movements and ocean conditions. This will help us understand what parts of their habitat Weddell seals use the most and what they do there. Through this work I am combining physical oceanographic research results with biological research questions and statistical models to analyse time series data in an understudied region.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

EMEWS: Effects of ocean properties on the Movement Ecology of Weddell Seals

Scheme: Newton International Fellowships

Dates: Mar 2018 - Mar 2020

Value: £88,335