Krill and whale counting in the Southern Ocean

This winter (or summer at this end of the world), the RRS Discovery sets off from the Falkland Islands to conduct a 6-week research cruise in the waters around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

There are multiple aims for this research cruise. Firstly, this will be the 2018-19 contribution to a 20 year data-set that British Antarctic Survey has been collecting on the abundance of krill in the waters around South Georgia, in an area known as the Western Core Box.

Secondly, we will be extending the survey out to the waters around the South Sandwich Islands. This work is being done in collaboration with scientists from the UK, the US, Norway, China, Germany, Ukraine and Japan to provide an update to the baseline data collected in 2000 – data on the abundance and distribution of krill.

Thirdly, the 2000 krill survey also gathered data on the distribution of cetaceans – whales and dolphins – in the same area, at the same time as the krill surveys were taking place. The 2019 survey will do the same. This is where I come in – I’m one of a team of four whale researchers on the Discovery, and the other survey vessels will also have scientists collecting whale data.

The ship has a wide range of scientists on board. As well as these three core aims, we’ll be collecting data for a wide variety of different research projects. Over the next few weeks, we’ll give you a blog update from as many of the different scientists as we can – stand by to find out more about some really fascinating projects!

Claire Lacey is a marine mammal researcher at the Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews.