Giulia Wood’s summer activities — or, in her case, winter — have included polar plunges into the Southern Ocean, listening to cracking glaciers and conducting research on Antarctic krill.
The Honors biochemistry and molecular biology student is part of Kim Bernard’s all-women research team studying how juvenile krill behave during the winter. This year is the second of three Antarctic research seasons for this project.
“It’s a world you only read about in books and watch documentaries about,” Wood said. “It’s one of those things where it’s untouchable until you are here and it kind of blows up your worldview quite a bit.”
Wood spent the first month of her research experience aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer, one of the U.S. Antarctic Program’s research vessels. During the cruise, the team completed 31 net tows and executed various experiments while traveling down the coast of the Western Arctic Peninsula.
Upon their arrival in Antarctica, the team spent several days in Wilhelmina Bay and the Gerlache Strait catching the krill needed for their experiments. The first night Wood remembers spending 10 hours searching to no avail. Fishing vessels in the area the day before made it more challenging.
The next day was magic. After receiving a simple one-word text, “krill,” Wood made a hectic dash around the boat to the acoustics computer to use echosounder data to direct the crew to the right towing depth to hit the aggregation of krill. When she stepped back on deck her crew members were crouched over coolers and coolers of krill.
“You could feel this energy in the air, this indescribable joy that we had done it; we had caught all the krill we needed and more,” Wood said. “It was a pretty spectacular moment and one of the first times of the trip that it really hit me that I was in Antarctica and getting to study Antarctic krill.”
After the cruise, the team stopped at Palmer Station, the only U.S. station located north of the Antarctic Circle. Wood would spend four more months at the station before returning in October to finish her senior year.