This summer, I spent two months in Russia conducting electrophysiological studies on sleep in marine mammals, including northern fur seals and beluga whales. There were four main projects we focused on:
Correlation between eye state and electroencephalogram activity during unihemispheric slow wave sleep in the northern fur seal: This is the project I focused on and will continue as my honors thesis. I analyzed the correlation between the state of both eyes and sleep state, scored using both qualitative (visual scoring) and quantitative (scoring based on spectral power analysis) methods. Here is the ResearchGate Project page.
Sleep deprivation and cognitive performance in northern fur seals: I trained a wild fur seal for use in an experiment where her shape recognition skills were compared before and after sleep deprivation. The young fur seal was shown one shape and needed to recall the shape a couple seconds later by choosing a target beneath the shape instead of an alternative target beneath a different shape.
Another fur seal was trained to do noise discrimination tasks and then deprived of sleep for four days. Surprisingly (for me), there was usually a slight increase in acuity and performance after exposure to this type of stress.
Effect of exposure to seismic noise on the endocrine and respiratory systems of beluga whales: We measured blood cortisol levels, heart rate using electrocardiogram electrodes, and breathing rate during various levels of exposure to seismic noise. This is our beluga whale, Spartacus: