Meet The Chilean Scientist Finding Out What Is The Deal With Seals


Ana Valenzuela-Toro once helped to excavate over 40 fossilized whales in her home country of Chile, now she is trying to study the evolutionary mystery of how and why pinnipeds (seals, fur seals, sea lions, and walruses) have stayed on the edge of land and sea for millions of years.

Valenzuela-Toro, who is currently a PhD candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, says she seeks to understand how and why the pinnipeds (unlike fully aquatic mammals such as whales, dolphins, dugongs and manatees) have evolved and maintained a semi-aquatic lifestyle, breeding on land but foraging in the water, over the past 30 million years or so.

“My research is devoted to studying the marine mammals’ evolutionary history and understanding the ecological, morphological, and physiological adaptations associated with their aquatic lifestyle and their evolution from terrestrial ancestors,” she says.

As part of her current research, Valenzuela-Toro is investigating the feeding and habitat preferences of living and extinct pinnipeds and how those habits and preferences have changed over time.

“My research provides a deep dive into the factors influencing their feeding and ecological interactions,” she says, adding this shines light on the processes and mechanisms involved in their evolution and current distribution patterns, ultimately helping to predict the effect of climate change on these dynamics.

Inspired by Fossil Whales

Valenzuela-Toro is from Santiago, the capital of Chile, a South American country with a coastline of nearly 4000 miles. ​

“Ever since I was a child, I have felt an intense fascination for the world of science,” she says, adding that after high school, she opted to study biology at the Universidad de Chile.

“While I did not have a childhood Eureka moment, I would say that my participation in excavating more than 40 fossilized whales at a site called Cerro Ballena in the Atacama Desert would be an equivalent experience,” Valenzuela-Toro says.

She had the opportunity to study and work with very experienced paleontologists from Chile, Brazil, and the USA, who she says taught her many important things, not only in an academic context but also in a personal sense.

“Thanks to this experience, I participated in the publication of two papers: one as co-author and the other as my first paper as the first author,” she says.

Climate Research in the Global South

Valenzuela-Toro says that historically, scientific advances, including those related to climate change, have been dominated by the research performed by scientists from wealthy countries, most of them in the Global North, which for economic, cultural, or political reasons have focused their attention on exploring specific systems and regions over others, resulting in a bias in humanity’s “landscape of knowledge”.

“Scientists from the Global South working on these largely neglected areas or systems are fundamental for addressing these gaps and we, as scientists from the Global South, collectively contribute with largely ignored geographical, temporal, and societal perspectives that are basic for addressing global issues like climate change,” she says.

Valenzuela-Toro says the lack of funding, appropriate infrastructure, limited access to scientific literature, language barriers, biases in the peer review processes, research isolation and other factors have prevented many scientists in the Global South from advancing their research at the same pace compared to scientists in/from more privileged countries.

“Together these invisible factors perpetuate the imbalance in knowledge production and intensify the impact of climate change in some underprivileged communities,” she says.

Another Chilean scientist who is interested in seals is Andrea Piñones, a physical oceanographer at the Research Center of Dynamics of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) in Chile.

MORE FROM FORBESChilean Scientists Used These Seals As Spies To Dive Into Antarctic Climate Mysteries

Piñones and her colleagues realized that if they could understand the behavior of the crabeater seal, they could understand the future distribution of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) – which has important implications for food chains and the carbon cycle.



Read original article here

Denial of responsibility! TechnoCodex is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave a comment