Our newest TEDx science crush — Terrie Williams, the biologist who led an expedition to Antarctica to study seals and named one SHAQUILLE O’SEAL.

Terrie is the head of the Williams Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. She¬†loves big mammals, a¬†passion that has led her on some wild adventures — sticking her hand into whale guts, comparing wild cheetahs to greyhounds, and strapping video cameras to seals in the Antarctic.

Much of Terrie’s research is about how big mammals do what they do: How do cheetahs sprint? How do Antarctic seals stay warm? How do dolphins dive? Here are some tidbits on Weddell seals, one of her main subjects of research and the cute fellows seen above:

  • Weddell seals are ice “reamers” — they have specialized teeth that act as ice picks and allow them to make breathing holes in the ice.
  • Each Weddell seal is equivalent in weight to nine Great Danes or 250 Chihuahuas, at least 850 pounds on average.
  • Weddell seals are able to dive to 2,000 feet and to stay underwater for more than an hour.

Watch Terrie’s TEDxSantaCruz talk here»

(Photos: Terrie Williams’s footage of Weddell seals in Antarctica)