Mr Rob King - marine research facility specialist
Scientists of the Antarctic: Mr Rob King
It’s a job where you go to work to do something fascinating, that might have a really important profound effect, on not just Australia, but the world.
Krill are crustaceans. This one species of krill we work on, the Antarctic krill, is around 500 million tonnes potentially. So an enormous biomass.
My role is to do research on krill, both in the Southern Ocean and in aquaria here in Tasmania.
We’re focusing on the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on krill. What we've been able to show by doing research in the laboratory here, is that if we do nothing about carbon dioxide emissions, by the end of the century we’d expect to see the hatch rates of krill in some areas of the Southern Ocean drop to only 50 per cent of what they are now. And that worsens to about two per cent of the current hatch rate by the year 2300. That will then spin on to be an effect on the food source for penguins, seals, fish, great whales and seabirds.
Working in Antarctica is a real privilege. The amazement of being associated with wildlife that has no fear of you is an incredible experience. To have a minke whale punch through the ice, right next to you, and blow a few puffs of air, and spray right around you and then disappear again, to be replaced by an emperor penguin ten minutes later. I mean it’s an absolutely incredible experience.
Mr Rob King – BSc (Hons)
I study the keystone species of the Southern Ocean ecosystem – the Antarctic krill. My fascination for the sea developed through years of surfing and spear fishing in Tasmania during my youth. I trained in marine biology at James Cook University in northern Queensland and returned to Tasmania to begin a PhD examining feeding in Antarctic krill. I was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time, and in 1995 I was employed by the Antarctic Division to design and operate a new aquarium, specifically built for research on Antarctic krill.
This work extended to developing the aquarium on the RSV Aurora Australis and the design of research systems for use both at sea and in the shore-based aquarium at Kingston. My role now includes the design and operation of bespoke aquarium systems, to meet the needs of national and international collaborators seeking to undertake research on Antarctic krill, either at sea or in our unique shore-based aquarium. I participate in marine science voyages to characterise the population and distribution of Antarctic krill and examine their physiological responses, particularly to ocean acidification and temperature.
I am currently the biology lead in the design of Australia’s new ice breaker, RSV Nuyina. This design includes new sampling techniques and a containerised aquarium system, which will interface with proposed shore-based aquarium infrastructure, to create a seamless pathway from specimen capture through to long-term land based aquarium research.
Key outcome areas
- Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)
- New ways to catch krill. (Australian Antarctic Magazine 31, 2016)
- Winter ice study on key species. (Australian Antarctic Magazine 25, 2013)
- What is krill? The secret life of whale food. (ABC Catalyst, 2015)
Bellini N., Cox M.J., Harper D.J., Stott S.R., Ashok P.C.,Dholakia K., Kawaguchi S, King R., Horton T., and Brown C.T.A. (2014). Making light of observing aquaria treatments: an application of optical coherence tomography to image subsurface tissue structure of Antarctic krill Euphausia superba. PloS One 9(10), e110367.
Letessier T.B., Kawaguchi S., King R., Meeuwig J.J., Harcourt R., Cox M.J. (2013). A robust and economical underwater stereo video system to observe Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). Open Journal of Marine Science 3:148-153. doi:10.4236/ojms.2013.33016.
Kawaguchi S., Ishida A., King R., Raymond B., Waller N., Constable A., Nicol S., Wakita M., Ishimatsu A. (2013). Risk maps for Antarctic krill under projected Southern Ocean acidification. Nature Climate Change 3:843-847. doi: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1937.