Let us just be open about it, not all scientists travel to the Antarctic to undertake research. Dr. Raouf Kalida sits in his lab at the University of New Brunswick (Saint John) in Canada processing the eyestalks of krill individuals, while Dr. Reiss will assist with samples from the field and Dr. Kawaguchi will be responsible for providing him with known-age individuals to validate the results.
That does not mean that Dr. Kalida does not like to travel. In fact he grew up in Cairo, Egypt, did his MSc in Scotland, his PhD in Texas and now work at the University of Brunswick in Canada. His focus area has been to study teh growth and age of various invertebrates, and especially the bivalves.
This got him involved in a pretty crazy project back in 2007. Back then he was working at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Halifax, Canada, and was responsible for investigating the age and growth of mollusks and fish that have commercial importance for stock assessment purposes. In addition to mollusks, stock assessment of crustaceans (such as crabs and lobsters) was the focus of the research of other scientists working in the same institute. How old is this crab? was the question that triggered the project to begin with. Long story short. It took him five years to answer that question,
The reason is that unlike fish, crustaceans lack hard parts from which age and growth can be measured. Finally, in 2012 Dr. Kalida and the rest of the research team managed to publish a manuscript demonstrating the direct age of four crustaceans including two shrimp species. The age of those taxa was determined by counting the growth bands in thin sections of their eyestalks. Thin sections were prepared in the eyestalk after cleaning and removing all tissues as shown in the figure below. The same technique was proven to be applicable in other species such as the Chilean Nylon shrimp. Given that krill can be considered as a “little” shrimp, we decided to give it a try and see if we could determine its age using the same method.
Together with Dr. Christian Reiss from the US National Marine Fisheries Service and Dr. So Kawaguchi from the Australian Antarctic Division Dr. Kalida will be working to explore the feasibility of applying the new method for age determination of the Antarctic krill.
The goal of their work is to increase the understanding of the variability in population structure (growth, recruitment, and size at maturity) in order to improve the krill fishery. If shown to be robust, the expected results will provide scientists and managers the ability to compare spatial and temporal growth rates of krill in the Southern Ocean. It will also allow the development of age-based assessments of krill populations to better allocate catch in the krill fishery.
After listening in on Dr. Kalida's story we concluded that there are many nuances to being an Extreme Scientist. We see it as important part of this campaign to also honor those in the backdrop, as they are just as important to bringing about #extremescience.