VIMS post-doctoral research associate Kim Bernard will be returning to the U.S. Palmer Research Station on the Antarctica Peninsula for another field season beginning in mid-October. Traveling with her is W&M undergraduate Domi Paxton.
Their research, part of the ongoing Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research Project (PAL-LTER), focuses on the distribution patterns of Antarctic krill in nearshore waters, and on how these patterns change across time and space. They relate their findings to physical drivers, such as tidal phases, and to the foraging ranges of Adelie penguins. Krill are an important part of the Antarctic marine food web, providing the main source of energy for marine mammals, penguins, seabirds, and fish.
During the upcoming field season, which will stretch into February 2012, Bernard and her colleagues will use acoustics to detect krill aggregations and to estimate their abundances and biomass. They will also try to collect krill samples from net tows to measure length frequencies of the krill in the area. Most of the work will be done from a Zodiac fitted with an echo-sounder—the researchers will go out every day during a diurnal tide and then for up to 5 days into the following semi-diurnal tide to monitor how the tides affect krill distribution patterns. (The Antarctic Peninsula is one of a few places in the world that experiences both tidal types.) She expects to see 4 or 5 series of diurnal to semi-diurnal tides and will attempt to sample all of these.
Bernard will also be going out on the research vessel Laurence M. Gould to conduct an acoustic survey of the head of the Palmer Deep Canyon (which is too far offshore to reach using a Zodiac from Palmer Station).
Bernard says that her work will “contribute to the PAL-LTER through improving our understanding of the physical drivers of krill distribution patterns, and will provide important information in terms of key penguin foraging areas.”