Coming Up: In Class With… Rob “Krill Whisperer” King

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Shortly, Marine Research Facility Specialist, Rob King aka The Krill Whisperer, will be taking on questions from school students around Australia in this exclusive In Class With… event.

Keep watching this space… the video will be published soon!

In the meantime, check out the links below for more fascinating articles and resources on the topic.

You might recognise marine biologist Rob King as his exceptional research (krill whispering skills) featured in our previous resource Good Krill Hunting, the article in issue 89 of Cosmos magazine. This fascinating article explained Rob’s role in krill research and in the design and management of the only krill aquarium of its kind in the world, at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) near Hobart, Tasmania.

Rob and his team study the keystone species of the Southern Ocean ecosystem – the Antarctic krill. Krill are crustaceans smaller than a prawn, and yet there are around 500 million tonnes of them – an enormous biomass.

Rob’s fascination for the sea developed through years of surfing and spear fishing growing up in Tasmania. He trained in marine biology at James Cook University in northern Queensland and returned to Tasmania to undertake a PhD examining feeding in Antarctic krill. In 1995, Rob was employed by the Antarctic Division to design and operate a new aquarium, specifically built for research on Antarctic krill.

Rob’s work with the AAD extended to developing an aquarium on the RSV Aurora Australis and the design of research systems for use both at sea and in the shore-based aquarium near Hobart.

“My role includes the design and operation of bespoke aquarium systems to meet the needs of national and international collaborators seeking to undertake research on Antarctic krill, either at sea or in our unique shore-based aquarium”.

More recently Rob led in the design of new sampling techniques, including a unique ‘wet well’ and containerised aquarium system for Australia’s new icebreaker, RSV Nuyina. Read more about the “wet wall” sampling system and other awesome tech on board the Nuyina here.

“Working in Antarctica is a real privilege. The amazement of being associated with wildlife that has no fear of you is an incredible experience: to have a minke whale punch through the ice right next to you – and blow a few puffs of air and spray right around you and then disappear again, to be replaced by an emperor penguin ten minutes later. It’s an absolutely incredible experience.”

Rob’s role involves research on krill, both in the Southern Ocean and in aquaria in Tasmania. The focus of current research looks at the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on krill.

“What we’ve been able to show by doing research in the laboratory here, is that if we do nothing about carbon dioxide emissions, by the end of the century we’d expect to see the hatch rates of krill in some areas of the Southern Ocean drop to only 50% of what they are now.”

These alarming statistics are predicted to worsen to about 2% of the current hatch rate by 2300 if we don’t act against climate change and reduce atmospheric carbon emissions. The reduction in krill would have catastrophic effects on Antarctic food chains including penguins, seals, fish, great whales, and seabirds.

‘It’s a job where you go to work to do something fascinating, that might have a really important profound effect, on not just Australia, but the world.”

Want more:

Use the following links to read articles featuring Rob, krill, climate change and careers with the AAD. These contain more information including the name and age of Rob’s oldest krill specimen! Hopefully they will enlighten and inspire:

Good Krill Hunting

SHIP OF FIRSTS

Carbon pumping: in for the krill

Antarctic biodiversity is under threat from climate change

Technology in Antarctica

Antarctica: A window to the future

Everyday jobs in an extraordinary place

In Class With… full series

Years: R-12

Topics:

Biological Sciences

Chemical Sciences

Earth and Space Sciences

Physical Sciences

Additional: Careers, Maths, Technology, Engineering