Stephen Nicol | An Island Press Author

Stephen Nicol

Stephen Nicol has spent his scientific career working with krill in the Antarctic as well as in Canada and South Africa. Nicol was born in Ireland and had an eclectic education in England, the United States, Scotland, and Canada. He has published extensively on many aspects of krill biology, on the management of the krill fishery, on the Southern Ocean ecosystem as well as on more esoteric aspects of human interactions with krill. He worked for the Australian Government’s Antarctic Division for twenty-four years as a research scientist and program leader. During that time, he also served on Australia’s delegation to the international commission that manages Antarctica’s fisheries.  He was awarded the Australian Antarctic medal for his services to Antarctic research in 2011. He led four major voyages to Antarctica and has participated in another four. In 2011 he retired and enrolled in a master’s degree program in creative writing, which resulted in several published short stories, photographic essays, and travel articles—and this book. He supervises graduate students and lectures at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania where he holds the title of Adjunct Professor. He provides advice on krill to bodies such as the Antarctic Krill Fishing Association, to various conservation organisations, and to anyone who will listen.
 

#ForewordFriday: Oceans of Krill Edition

As I watched, mesmerized, this mass of crustaceans became a living brick-red raft, writhing on top of the water’s surface. The water became disturbed as thousands of krill flipped their muscular tails and leaped clear of the water, falling...

As I watched, mesmerized, this mass of crustaceans became a living brick-red raft, writhing on top of the water’s surface. The water became disturbed as thousands of krill flipped their muscular tails and leaped clear of the water, falling back like a shower of pink raindrops.

So begins the journey that cemented Stephen Nicol’s passion for krill. Now, after studying the crustacean for nearly 40 years, Nicol wants us to know more about this enigmatic and vitally important creature of the sea. In The Curious Life of Krill, he debunks the myth that krill are simply microscopic whale food and immerses readers in a dark and icy world full of wonder and surprises. Written by one of the world’s leading krill scientists, The Curious Life of Krill is a joyful account of a species we have much to learn from, and many reasons to protect.

Read Chapter 1: Oceans of Krill below. 

 

Eight Surprising Words that Describe Krill

As I watched, mesmerized, this mass of crustaceans became a living brick-red raft, writhing on top of the water’s surface. The water became disturbed as thousands of krill flipped their muscular tails and leaped clear of the water, falling...

As I watched, mesmerized, this mass of crustaceans became a living brick-red raft, writhing on top of the water’s surface. The water became disturbed as thousands of krill flipped their muscular tails and leaped clear of the water, falling back like a shower of pink raindrops.

So begins the journey that cemented Stephen Nicol’s passion for krill. Now, after studying the crustacean for nearly 40 years, Nicol wants us to know more about this enigmatic and vitally important creature of the sea. In The Curious Life of Krill, he debunks the myth that krill are simply microscopic whale food and immerses readers in a dark and icy world full of wonder and surprises. Read on for eight surprising words that describe this misunderstood species. 

1. Copious. Antarctic krill may be the most abundant animal on earth. By weight, there could be more krill on the planet than humans.

2. Average. Krill are not tiny, microscopic zooplankton. They are average-sized marine animals, weighing about a gram and growing to 6 centimeters in length. Their size usually shocks first-time viewers who expect them to be much smaller.

3. Beautiful. Krill are mostly transparent but can blush brick-red when stressed. They can also put on a spectacular light show when stimulated using their many blue light organs. Their underlying color depends in part on their diet: krill can be dark green in the spring when they are gorging on algae but become less verdant during the rest of the year.

4. Cool. Antarctic krill, not surprisingly, are only found in the icy waters around Antarctica. Water temperatures above five degrees Celsius cook krill. Their habitat is covered by ice for much of the year and their young depend on plants that grow on or in the ice.

Kilsheadkils.jpg
The head of Antarctic krill. Observe the bioluminescent organ at the eyestalk. Via User:Uwe kils, via Wikimedia Commons

5. Geriatric. Krill can reach the ripe old age of 12 years. They grow by moulting but if food is in short supply they can shrink in length. This confuses scientist’s attempts to work out how old individual krill are because small krill are not always young krill.

6. Sociable. Krill live in vast swarms or schools that can stretch for tens of kilometers. Curiously, living in such large, obvious aggregations makes life safer for individual krill but it does mean that bulk feeders such as whales can eat millions of krill in a single mouthful.

7. Nutritious. Vast numbers of penguins, seals and whales survive on a diet of Antarctic krill and grow and reproduce at amazing rates. The nutritional value (and abundance) of krill also means that they are currently fished to produce food for farmed fish.

8. Commercial. Antarctic krill have been commercially fished for over 40 years. The current catch of approximately 200,000 tons/year makes it one of the world’s largest crustacean fisheries, but this level of catch is less than five percent of the estimated sustainable level of harvest.