Census of Antarctic Marine Life

The advent of the IPY in 2007–08 and the international Census of Marine Life currently underway provides the context for a Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML) to begin. CAML is approved by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research as an integral part of its Evolution and Biodiversity in Antarctica programme, and will be coordinated by the AAD using a five-year grant provided by the Alfred P Sloan Foundation in New York. A project manager, funded by the grant, has recently taken up duties in the AAD Science Branch.

The census will determine species biodiversity, abundance and distribution in as many places around Antarctica as we have ships available. Attention will be directed towards the animals of the sea floor; on the continental slope and in deep waters; under recently collapsed ice shelves; and in the upper sunlit zones where plankton abounds. Other surveys will focus on krill, whales, seals and sea birds. The census will employ the latest sampling and analytical techniques, including molecular biological assessment of biodiversity through the Barcode of Life programme. Remote video imaging will also be used to yield images of this fascinating and virtually unknown ocean realm.

CAML has been assigned preliminary IPY recognition as a core project. In the next 12 months work will begin to secure ship time and to build the detailed plans for the largest Antarctic marine project ever undertaken.

Michael Stoddart, Chief Scientist, AAD