APPLEDORE ISLAND (WGME) – Seals are essential to our ocean's health, and their population is soaring along the Maine coast, but the science surrounding them is still relatively unknown.
Student scientists with the Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island are studying our oceans.
"All those data sets are really important to understanding change in the Gulf of Maine, which is one of the fastest changing bodies of water in the world," Dr. Jennifer Seavey said.
Seals are on the front lines of those changes.
" They were almost extinct, so this is an incredible environmental success story," Seavey said.
For eight years, through a partnership between the University of New Hampshire and Cornell, summer interns track seals off the coast.
"Now we have hundreds of seals that come every day to this nearby Duck Island, just right off shore here," Seavey said.
Over the course of the summer, interns monitor them by boat, from afar.
"We would rather they don't know we're there at all, they do look at us though!" intern Jessica Veo said.
The grey and harbor seals are specifically identified by markings on their pelts, like a fingerprint.
By following each seal, it gives researchers a bigger picture of how these curious creatures help with the ocean's health.
"They're cute, they're big, they're adorable so people are really drawn to them,” Seavey said. “Which is great because that does make them an ambassador for the ocean "
But experts say there is a give and take. More seals, mean more sharks.
"That's their food source, so we expect the sharks to expand with them," Seavey said.
It's something these student scientists will monitor for years to come.