2012-2013 Science Planning Summaries
U.S. Antarctic Program - Science Support Section United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
Benthic-pelagic coupling in an intact ecosystem: The role of top predators in McMurdo Sound
An Adelie penguin investigates the remotely operated vehicle SCINI. Photo credit: Stacy Kim. 

Program Manager:
Dr. Charles Amsler


ASC POC/Implementer:
John Rand / Cara Sucher

Dr. Stacy Kim (Principal Investigator)
http://scini-penguin.mlml.calstate.edu/External Non U.S. Government Site

San Jose State University
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories
Moss Landing, California

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  Cape Royds / Ice Runway / Sea Ice / Crary Lab

Project Description:
This project will focus on food web interactions of three dominant predators, Adélie penguins, minke whales, and the fish-eating Ross Sea killer whales, all of which exert foraging pressure on their main prey—crystal krill and silver fish. The annual arrival of an icebreaker to open a channel through fast ice to McMurdo Station (20 kilometers from the ice edge) provides a large-scale natural experiment for investigations of predator effects on prey distributions. Thousands of penguins and dozens of whales follow the ship, foraging to either side of the channel to the extent of their breath-holding ability.

Field Season Overview:
Through Jiffy-drilled holes in the fast ice, project researchers will deploy SCINI (Submersible Capable of under Ice Navigation and Imaging), a video- and acoustic-capable remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) equipped with environmental sensors. They will collect ice cores (using a SIPRE auger) and water samples (using Niskin bottles) to quantify the abundance and distribution of phytoplankton, sea ice biota, and prey before the icebreaker arrives. The sampling protocol will be repeated three times: Before the channel is broken, during channel work and immediately after. During the entire field deployment, project team members and their collaborators (Ainley B-0310) will tag and track penguins and whales to examine the interactions between upper and lower trophic levels. Project divers will dive at established sites in McMurdo Sound to sample shallow benthic communities to continue their long-term dataset.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Heather Broadbent
  • David Burnett
  • Clint Collins
  • Kendra Daly (Co-PI)
  • John Durban
  • Stacy Kim (PI)
  • Robert Pitman
  • Leslie Schwierzke-Wade
  • Eric Stackpole

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Curator: Esther L. Hill PhD, Antarctic Support Contract   |   NSF Official: Alexandra Isern, Office of Polar Programs