Bachelor-/ Master thesis: Predator-prey interactions of Antarctic krill using observations from krill fishing vessels (m/f/d)

Alfred Wegener Institute
June 12, 2023
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Bachelor-/ Master thesis: Predator-prey interactions of Antarctic krill

using observations from krill fishing vessels (m/f/d)

Background Antarctic krill ( Euphausia superba ) is a key species of the Antarctic marine ecosystem and one of the biomass-richest species on earth. It plays a central role in the Southern Ocean food web by channeling energy from lower trophic levels to higher predators like different species of penguins, seals and baleen whales. Krill is also the target of a commercial fishery that has been increased significantly in the past 10 years and is managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), with the aim to be precautionary, prioritising the protection of the marine ecosystem. However, given the increasingly concentrated fishing efforts in space and time, and the recovery of large krill predator populations, direct encounters of fishing vessels and predators are increasing with so far unknown consequences. While these observations have sparked controversy, krill fishing vessels also provide a rare opportunity to collect data on krill with unparalleled spatial and temporal resolution. This data can be used to answer important questions about krill biology and help to improve management. In this project, we aim to characterise encounters between krill predators and krill using long-term data (minimum 8 months, potentially multi-year depending on the extent of the project) recorded with hull-mounted echosounders onboard commercial fishing vessels.

Tasks The basic task will be to screen datasets to quantify encounters of the fishing vessels with predators (air-breathing predators are visible as distinct streaks in the acoustic data) and analyse their frequency of occurrence in space, time and in relation to environmental conditions. Depending on the skillset and research interests of the candidate, follow-up analyses could focus on the characterisation of different predator types, the impact of predator encounters on krill swarm properties, the synchronisation of krill and predator behaviour, or the implications for management and current fishing practices. The project offers the investigation of various research questions and we highly encourage interested candidates to actively participate in the development of those. For this task, we are looking for a curious, motivated and self-driven candidate, ideally in a Master's programme.

Requirements ● Self-driven, curious, interested in marine ecology and the Southern Ocean ● Good skills in R, Python or another relevant programming language ● familiarity with data handling and analysis ● background in marine ecology, fisheries biology, marine policy or other relevant fields

Further Information Start of project: 1st. June 2023 or as soon as possible

The scientific supervision of the project will be realized jointly by Dominik Bahlburg (AWI) and Bettina Meyer (AWI, Uni Oldenburg)

The place of employment will be Bremerhaven, 27570 or Oldenburg, 26129.

You are interested? Please send an email including a brief statement of your research interests and relevant skills to [email protected].

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