Big Yellow Box Spies on Antarctic Krill via Kombi

Australian Antarctic Division

Australian scientists are closer to discovering more about the winter movements of Antarctic krill thanks to a not-so-subtle device.

Sitting on the seafloor near Mawson research station were two KOMBIs or Krill Observational Mooring for Benthic Investigation.

Resembling a big, bright yellow box, they had been quietly collecting data since they were deployed by teams on board the RV Investigator in January 2021.

Now the two KOMBIs are off the sea floor and back in the hands of scientists ready to trawl through mountains of information.

Biologist Dr Maddie Brasier said understanding what Antarctic krill do in winter has been notoriously difficult.

"In the summertime, we can go down there on a ship and study krill using sound, and we can also trawl for krill," Dr Brasier said.

"But in winter we can't get there because of the impenetrable sea ice."

"So the KOMBI enables us to study krill all year round including that seafloor habitat that we can't access."

To do this, the KOMBIs are packed with lights and cameras that activate every five hours to record a short burst of sea floor footage, as well as an echo sounder to measure the biomass of krill above.

Rounding out the on board technology is an high definition audio recorder developed and built by the AAD Technology and Innovation team, which is capable of recording more than a years' worth of calls made by seals and whales, which are key predators of Antarctic Krill.

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