By Ryan Dolan
Ryan Dolan is an officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ global penguin conservation campaign.
THREATS TO KRILL, PENGUINS, AND OTHER SPECIES SHOW THE NEED TO SAFEGUARD THE SOUTHERN OCEAN
The coast of Antarctica is a breathtaking kaleidoscope of ever-shifting light and colors. In the twilight of the austral winter, for a few hours every day, the sea ice turns a fiery orange as shadow puppets trace the cracks across slow-moving waves. Snow-covered peaks turn from dark blue to fluorescent pink during the sun’s fleeting appearances above the horizon. Penguins pop in and out of the water on their way to forage, while crabeater seals haul out on the ice to rest.
My first encounter with sea ice and Antarctica’s jagged coastline came last August, when I joined a group of experts on a U.S. National Science Foundation research vessel for a monthlong voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula. Led by the Antarctic Marine Living Resources program at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, our crew gathered data during the austral winter to better understand how populations of krill—tiny shrimplike crustaceans that are the main food source for many species of penguins, seals, and whales—are being altered by factors such as climate change and declining sea ice.