The SMRU (Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scotland) designed and built the first CTD profilers designed to be carried by animals. The initial development was partly funded by the Norwegian Polar Institute, with Kit Kovacs, Christian Lydersen and Ole Anders Nøst being the main instigators of the project. This project was designed to monitor the hydrology of ice covered waters in Storfjorden, Svalbard. The work was further supported by a small grant from NERC.
A more appropriate tag, the CTD-SRDL, was consecutively developped in 2003 and first deployed in significant numbers for the SEaOS (Southern Elephant seals as Oceaonographic Samplers) project. This further development was supported by a grant from the National Oceanographic Partnership Program, funded through Stanford (Barbara Block) and UCSC (Dan Costa). The SEaOS project led to the larger MEOP project that initially involved researchers from 9 countries.
MEOP started as an International IPY (International Polar Year) project in 2008, and it is now a large consortium that acts as a bridge between the scientific teams deploying the tags and the front-end users. The MEOP data is useful to assess how animals respond in their foraging behavior to changes in oceanographic conditions. It is also of great value to study the ocean itself. Through the years, instrumented animals have become an essential source of temperature and salinity profiles, especially for the polar oceans.
The value of these hydrographic data within the existing Southern Ocean observing system has recently been demonstrated. Using seal-derived data to constrain a model simulation of the ocean substantially modified the estimated surface mixed-layer properties and circulation patterns in the Southern Ocean. It improved the agreement of the model simulation with independent satellite observations of sea-ice concentration.
The oceanographic data collected in MEOP should improve significantly the quality of the projections provided by ocean-climate models (e.g. Mercator or Southern Ocean State Estimate). It is already bringing a wealth of new scientific findings, both in marine ecology and physical oceanography. The rapid development of this technology offers possibilities in ocean observations that are just starting to be revealed.
More detailed information on the different aspects of the MEOP project are available on: