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"The Omnivore's Dilemma": The effect of autumn diet on winter physiology and condition of juvenile Antarctic krill

If we are to predict the implications of climate change on the Antarctic pelagic ecosystem, there is an urgent need to understand the connections between food quality and the overwinter survival of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba, "krill"). In this 5-year CAREER project, we will use a combination of empirical and theoretical techniques to assess the effects of diet on 1-year old krill in autumn-winter. Our research is centered on four hypotheses: (H1) autumn diet affects 1-year old krill physiology and condition at the onset of winter; (H2) autumn diet has an effect on winter physiology and condition of 1-year old krill under variable winter food conditions; (H3) the rate of change in physiology and condition of 1-year old krill from autumn to winter is dependent on autumn diet; and (H4) winter energy budget of 1-year old krill will vary between years and will be dependent on autumn diet. During three winter field seasons at Palmer Station, we will conduct long-term feeding experiments and in situ sampling to measure changes in the physiology and condition of krill in relation to their diet and feeding environment. Data derived from our experiments and field sampling will be used to develop theoretical models of growth rates and energy budgets to determine how diet will influence the overwinter survival of 1-year old krill. The research will be integrated with an education and outreach plan to (1) develop engaging undergraduate and graduate courses, (2) train and develop young scientists for careers in polar research, and (3) engage the public and increase their awareness and understanding.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, Award # 1753101.


  1. Bernard KS, Steinke KB, Fontana JM (2022) Winter condition, physiology, and growth potential of juvenile Antarctic krill. Frontiers in Marine Science.

  2. Steinke KB, Bernard KS, Copeman LA, Fontana JM, Garcia LM (2022) Energy allocation and the onset of maturation in overwintering juvenile Antarctic krill at the Western Antarctic Peninsula. Frontiers in Marine Science.

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