SO GLOBEC Projects


Prof Ulrich Bathmann
AWI for Polar and Marine Research
Am Handelshafen 12
Postfach 120161
D-27515 Bremerhaven

The Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), is a species with increasing commercial interest. It is a key individual in the Antarctic ecosystem, being a major food item for a large number of top predators such as whales, mammals and sea birds. Even their faecal pellets are incorporated in the food web through ingestion by copepods. E. superba is very successful in the extreme environment of the Southern Ocean because it is capable of exploiting a food supply that is both patchy and seasonal. However, despite several decades of intensive research the understanding of its life strategy is incomplete. Up to now, most of the information available is based on investigation during the Antarctic summer on adult E. superba, little is known about its larval ecology. The winter distribution and behaviour of the stocks of Antarctic krill developed during summer months are still unresolved. There is a comparative lack of data on the winter energy budget, particularly for krill larvae. And there is a lack of data from regions around Antarctica especially from the area east of the Weddell Sea (i.e. Lazarev Sea). These data are essential, for developing a model for population dynamics and for a better estimation of krill production.

Therefore the question of increasing interest is how do krill survive during winter, when most of the Southern Ocean is covered by ice and primary production is low?

Key Questions, Hypotheses and Issues:

The main objectives of this research project are to establish:

  • If, when and what do larvae and adult krill feed on during late autumn and winter in the Lazarev Sea
  • What is krill abundance in the area and do we have one or more populations present?
  • What are the available food sources and to quantify specific ingestion and assimilation rates for single developmental stages of E. superba present during the time of investigation.

These objectives are essential for a better understanding of the reproduction success and therefore for stock assessment. To achieve the research objectives for larval and adult krill the project contains the following working steps:

  • determination of hydrographic conditions in the Lazarev Sea relevant for krill
  • determination the krill abundances in space and time
  • determination of quantity and quality of food sources present
  • determination of elemental and biochemical composition of larvae and adult krill
  • determination of feeding rates on the phytoplankton stock in general and on different autotrophic groups and heterotrophic micro- and mesozooplankton in particular.

Structure of the project:

Duration: 2004-2007

Coordination: U. Bathmann and B. Meyer (AWI)

Funding: BMBF, DFG, AWI and others.

Partners: S. Nicol (AAD), A. Atkinson (BAS) and D. Thiele (IWC)


Working groups:

  • Population dynamics: V. Siegel (BfA-Fish. Hamburg)
  • Physical oceanography: M.Rhein (University of Bremen) and V. Strass (AWI)
  • Krill distribution: U. Bathmann (AWI-acoustic)
  • Larval physiology: B. Meyer (AWI)
  • Krill lipids: W. Hagen (University of Bremen)

System Types Studied:
The Atlantic and Indian Sector of the Southern Ocean.
Overwintering regions of krill (pelagial, sea-ice, others).

Target Organisms
Euphausia superba (Antarctic krill)

Further information:
Please see the German SO GLOBEC site and the AWI Zooplankton and Krill pages.

SO GLOBEC: International Whaling Commission

Deborah Thiele

Chair, IWC Scientific Committee Working Group on IWC-Southern Ocean Collaboration Whale Ecology Group - Southern Ocean (WEG-SO)
School of Ecology and Environment
Deakin University
PO Box 423, Warrnambool
Victoria 3280

The initial collaboration in the Southern Ocean for the IWC under the then IWC - SOWER programme involved research with GLOBEC and CCAMLR. The IWC participated in German and US SO GLOBEC programs in the Western Antarctic Peninsula during 2001-2003. On those cruises, visual surveys were run to collect cetacean sightings simultaneous with krill and other physical and biological data. Standard IWC methodology for multidisciplinary studies was used. Data were recorded on a laptop based tracking program, and photo and video records were also obtained for species identification, group size verification, feeding (and other behaviour), ice habitat use and individual identification where possible. Ship and helicopter time were provided to the IWC teams on some cruises to facilitate this work. During these surveys, work was done in partnership with cetacean passive acoustic studies, and this led to the development of a refined project approach for ongoing collaboration in this region.

The development of the AAA/IWC collaborative program is an important component in a circum-Antarctic approach to investigating the connections between whale ecology and the variability and dynamics of Antarctic ecosystems. The main objective of the IWC/AAA is implementing a circum-Antarctic continuous acoustic monitoring system for cetaceans, to investigate connections between cetaceans and variability in ecosystem processes at local, regional and circum-Antarctic scales. The AAA program has been structured to include a variety of novel and historical cetacean research methods whilst simultaneously developing the potential of the new year-round acoustic recording packages (ARP's). While methodologically powerful, passive acoustic technology can currently provide data on call frequency, but cannot, when used remotely in the Antarctic, provide a reliable measure of relative abundance on any temporal or spatial scale, and does not allow an assessment of the number of individual whales calling at any one time, both critical elements in determining seasonal abundance. In order that this tool reaches its potential for application to cetacean conservation and management issues it is essential that means be developed to overcome this limitation as far as possible. Additionally, acoustic research needs to be partnered by studies to develop an ecological context for the analysis of acoustic data. For example, calling rates or spectra may vary with behaviour in response to changes in habitat characteristics. This can only be determined by ship-based research simultaneous with acoustic recordings.

Key Questions, Hypotheses and Issues:

The long term aim of the programme is to define how spatial and temporal variability in the physical and biological environment influence cetacean species in order to determine those processes in the marine ecosystem which best predict long-term changes in cetacean distribution, abundance, stock structure, extent and timing of migrations and fitness.

Three specific objectives have been identified under the framework of the overall objective:

  • Characterise foraging behaviour and movements of individual baleen whales in relation to prey characteristics and physical environment.
  • Relate distribution, abundance and biomass of baleen whale species to same for krill in a large area in a single season.
  • Monitor interannual variability in whale distribution and abundance in relation to physical environment and prey characteristics.

Expanded objectives with development of AAA program:
Our experience in the first two years of SO GLOBEC surveys has led to the development of an additional long-term objective: the development of a cost effective, useful cetacean monitoring system for the Southern Ocean. This system will be developed using year-round passive acoustic recording packages (ARPís) and associated fine scale ecological studies across a number of oceanic regions in the Antarctic.

A major aim of this work is to develop a broad set of categories of association between behaviour, environmental conditions and calling rates for each species. These will be continuously refined until we have a tool that will allow the interpretation of ARP data with remotely sensed environmental data to predict, link and extrapolate whale distribution, and causes at local, regional and circum-Antarctic scales.

Structure of the project:

Duration: 2001, ongoing. Plans in place for collaborative work under the ICED initiative beyond 2010

Funding Agency: International Whaling Commission, Vessel, in kind and monetary support from national programs and other funding bodies

System Types Studied (current and planned):

  • Marguerite Bay, Western Antarctic Peninsula, Southern Ocean (2001 - 2003 ongoing)
  • South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean (2004 - ongoing)
  • Weddell Sea, Southern Ocean (2003 - 2005)
  • Ross Sea, Southern Ocean (2004 - 2005 ongoing)
  • Mawson and Casey, East Antarctica, Southern Ocean (2002 - 2004 ongoing)
  • Elephant Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Southern Ocean (2003 - 2004)
  • Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas (2006 - 2010)

Target Organisms: Cetaceans

Physical Processes Examined:Sea ice cover and type

Further information:
Full cruise reports, web diaries and images from all of the cruises can be found at: or from the IWC website.


Eileen Hofmann
Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography
Old Dominion University
Crittenton Hall
768 52nd Street
Norfolk VA 23529

The U.S. Southern Ocean GLOBEC field studies consist of mooring deployment/recovery cruises, process-oriented cruises and survey cruises. During the first mooring cruise, which took place on the ARSV Laurence M. Gould, a current meter array was placed along a line extending off Adelaide Island and along a line across the opening of Marguerite Bay. This mooring array remained in place for one year. A second cruise in early 2002 retrieved the first array and redeployed a second current meter array that consisted of three moorings aligned across the opening to Marguerite Bay. These mooring were retrieved in March 2003. The current meter arrays deployed as part of the U.S. SO GLOBEC program provide the first long-term measurements of the current structure on the WAP continental shelf.

Other activities on the mooring cruises consisted of deploying arrays of passive acoustic moorings to obtain information on cetacean distribution and deploying surface velocity drifters. The IWC observers aboard the RV L.M. Gould also completed cetacean surveys that established a baseline for cetacean abundance along the Antarctic Peninsula at the start of the austral fall. The cetacean surveys provide observations from regions and seasons that have not been previously sampled and, as such, are important information for the IWC, which has responsibility for management of cetacean resources in this region of the Southern Ocean. Details of the mooring cruises and some preliminary results are given in U.S. SO GLOBEC Report Numbers 1, 4 and 9 (see report listing below).

The U.S. Southern Ocean GLOBEC field program consisted of joint survey and process cruises on board the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer and ARSV Laurence M. Gould, respectively. The region covered by the U.S. cruises overlaps with the region covered by the German SO GLOBEC cruise. The U.S. Southern Ocean GLOBEC cruises provided information from mid to late austral fall and during the austral winter for two years. The German program sampled during late summer to early fall. Thus, the sequence of cruises in the WAP region will provide essentially good coverage for the austral fall, the set-up for austral winter, and the austral winter.

Studies on the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer survey cruises are based upon data collected from conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) casts, an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP), a Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sampling Sensing System (MOCNESS) with nine 1m2 nets, and a Bio-Optical Multifrequency Acoustical and Physical Environmental Recorder (BIOMAPER-II). These data sets provide repeated realizations of hydrographic structure, upper water column currents, nutrients, phytoplankton, micro-zooplankton and mesozooplankton, and Antarctic krill distributions. Seabird and cetacean surveys were done during the relatively short daylight periods and buoys are deployed for listening to cetacean sounds. Other activities consisted of Remotely-Operated Vehicle (ROV) operations and deployment of surface drifters. The first survey cruise also deployed two Automatic Weather Stations on the Kirkland Islands and the Faure Islands inside of Marguerite Bay. These stations are now providing the first continuous meteorological observations from this region of the Antarctic (data available at Detailed accounts of the 2001 survey cruises and some preliminary results are given in U.S. SO GLOBEC Report Numbers 2 and 3. Results for the 2002 survey cruises area given in U.S. SO GLOBEC Report Numbers 6 and 8.

The process cruises are based on focused studies of several days duration at specific sites in and around the Marguerite Bay region. The objectives of the process studies were to understand the factors that govern Antarctic krill survivorship, overwintering strategies, and availability to higher trophic levels. Studies on the process cruises consisted of ship-based laboratory experiments of zooplankton and Antarctic krill physiology; under-ice diving to characterize the sea ice habitat, sea ice biota, and to collect animals for experiments; and focused 1m2 and 10m2 MOCNESS net tows to characterize community assemblages in the water column. In addition ADCP and hydroacoustic measurements were made to complement observations on the survey vessel. Detailed accounts of the 2001 and 2002 process cruises and some preliminary results are given in U.S. SO GLOBEC Reports Numbers 1,3, 5 and 7.

As part of the process cruise activities Adélie penguins and crabeater seals (Lobodon carcinophagus) were instrumented with satellite transmitters. Additional satellite transmitters were placed on Adélie penguins in the colonies near Palmer Station on Anvers Island (64 46°S, 64 04°W) in the early austral fall preceding the cruises. The animal tagging provides insight to where predators go during austral winter, which is still largely unknown. Also, the combination of the tagging studies with the in situ and survey data provides a unique opportunity to better understand the foraging strategies used by marine predators in the face of meso- and fine-scale ecological variability.

The sites at which Adélie penguins and seals were tagged during the 2001 and 2002 U.S. SO GLOBEC process cruises ranged from Adelaide Island to the northern part of Alexander Island. As a result, a range of habitats are included in the animal tagging studies. The returned trajectories show that like crabeater seals penguins are moving over large areas and are suggestive that the animals are concentrating in areas that are characterized by fronts where availability of Antarctic krill may be greatest. Therefore, the information on penguin and seal movement will contribute to understanding how these animals select their foraging locations and prey, and how alterations in environmental conditions and Antarctic krill abundance may impact top predator populations. Further details of the crabeater seal tagging program and updates on the seal trajectories can be found at:

The first special volume of Deep-Sea Research II that is devoted to the results of the Southern Ocean GLOBEC program is scheduled for publication in late 2004. The titles, author listing, and abstracts for the papers that are included in the volume are available at:

Key Questions, Hypotheses and Issues:

The focus of the U.S. Southern Ocean GLOBEC program is on the biology and physics of a region of the continental shelf to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula extending from the northern tip of Adelaide Island to the southern portion of Alexander Island and including Marguerite Bay. The primary goals of the program are:

    • To elucidate shelf circulation processes and their effect on sea ice formation and Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) distribution; and
    • To examine the factors that govern Antarctic krill survivorship and availability to higher trophic levels, including seals, penguins and whales.

Structure of the Project:

Duration: - ongoing

System Types Studied:
  • Marguerite Bay
  • Western Antarctic Peninsula
  • Southern Ocean

Target Organisms: Euphausia superba (Antarctic krill)

Physical Processes Examined: Shelf circulation processes, annual formation and destruction of sea ice

Funding Agency: U. S. National Science Foundation Division of Ocean Sciences

    Participating Institutions:

    • Woods Hole Ocean Institute
    • University of Wisconsin
    • Earth and Space Research
    • University of Maryland
    • University of Tennessee, Knoxville
    • University of California, Santa Barbara
    • University of Alaska, Anchorage
    • Columbia University
    • University of California, Berkeley
    • University of South Florida, Tampa
    • Old Dominion University
    • University of Nevada
    • University of Minnesota
    • Scripps Institution of Oceanography
    • University of California, Santa Cruz
    • Massachussets Institute of Technology