Scientists plan to fly 10,000 live krill from Antarctica out to Australia as part of a ground-breaking study to monitor the effects of climate change. Working with the Australian Antarctic Division, these researchers are the first to attempt such a project in the world.
AAD plans to fly out 10,000 krill from Casey Station, one of their permanent Antarctic bases, to their research headquarters in Hobart, Tasmania. The flight will only take four-and-a-half hours compared to the six-week typical voyage of its icebreaker Aurora Australis.
Robb Clifton, operations manager of AAD, is confident that although this journey is the first of its kind, everyone involved with the project has thought through all of the logistics.
“We’ve got to make sure we oxygenate the water enough before the krill fly, and then [put in place] some thermal sheets and barriers to make sure that the water doesn’t freeze on the journey up to the runway and on the way home,” said Clifton.
Bringing live Antarctic krill to Australia would open the door to new research projects that were not previously feasible. It would also create possibilities for scientists from all over the world to travel to Tasmania and conduct their research.
The main topic for exploration is the effect of climate change on krill eggs. Krill are a vital species in the Southern Ocean, and Rob King, marine biologist with AAD, is excited by what could be achievable with this revolutionary study.
“We can take the animals from the environment and bring them almost instantaneously to a high-tech laboratory,” said King. “So that gives us much more opportunity to run powerful research on live animals. Using eggs direct from the Southern Ocean for our research will give us a clearer and more accurate picture of what’s actually happening in wild populations.”
The flight is set for this December, but the concrete details depend on the weather and krill availability.