Snoozing grey seal captures hearts as 2024 Science as Art calendar cover winner

- January 16, 2024

Nicole Harrington navigated through the middle of a wind storm on Sable Island last January to capture this image of a grey seal hunkering down for a nap.
Nicole Harrington navigated through the middle of a wind storm on Sable Island last January to capture this image of a grey seal hunkering down for a nap.

For the past decade, Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Science has produced the Science As Art Calendar — a publication that highlights the beauty of science in backyards, travel destinations, research labs and much more. 

Thirteen photos are selected annually — one for the cover and 12 for each of the months — from a pool of submissions by the Dal Science community, including students, alumni, faculty and staff.

Submissions for the 2024 calendar hit a new record, with nearly 100 photos offered for consideration. This year's cover winner is Nicole Harrington (BSc’22, Marine Biology), an MSc candidate studying Marine Ecology at Dalhousie. The cover-winning photo, titled Sleeping Through a Sandstorm, captures a grey seal pup buried in the sand at Sable Island, Nova Scotia whose slumber is undisturbed despite an ongoing winter storm.

‘I couldn’t get the image out of my mind’

Nicole recalls capturing the photo during a Sable Island research expedition in January 2023. 

“We were on our way home and I couldn't get the image of these pups lying on the beach out of my mind. They were so peaceful and serene,” she recalls. “The sand was piling up on them like snow drifts. I ran back to the camp, grabbed my camera gear and headed back out. The wind was ripping across the beach and I couldn't see the sand in my eyes. Keeping a safe distance, I army crawled my way over to the seal pup, took the picture and hoped for the best. I didn't know I got the picture until I got back to camp.” 

Developing a passion for grey seals

Nicole’s passion for studying grey seals began during her honours project with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

“I was lucky enough to complete an honours project with Dr. Damian Lidgard and Dr. Cornelia den Heyer from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They had a great project for me on seals, which is what brought me into this community. I worked on the movement ecology of seals and looked to see how they use Sable Island," says Nicole.  

"It was a fantastic experience. We studied how seals use the island, their movement, breeding dispersal and habitat choice."

Following Nicole’s undergrad, she became a research sssistant with DFO. "It was everything I ever wanted and more. I got to work with females and their pups, see the males that I did my research on, and recover tags from certain individuals,” she says.

Expedition to Sable Island

As part of her Master's program, Nicole continues her research on grey seals and recently completed a winter expedition at Sable Island. What does a winter expedition look like?

“It's a big deal because we bring our own supplies. Our food, water, medical and research equipment," says Nicole. “There are two base camps for the seal team. The cabin I work at is about a 45-minute drive down the beach. It's remote — no cell service, no Internet, but a nice wood gas stove.”

She explains there is no shortage of work during the trip. “We are pretty much on our own as soon as we get out there. We have tasks to do and seals to see. We have mom and pups that we check on every day.”

Following her Master’s, Nicole plans to pursue a PhD focusing on grey seals. 

About the Science As Art Calendar

To learn more about the 2024 Science As Art calendar, please visit Each year, the calendar is sent to 8,000 alumni worldwide. All proceeds support the Faculty of Science Experiential Learning and Equipment Fund. Calendars can be purchased by contacting The 2025 photo contest is open for submissions until August 31, 2024.


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