Team members

Team members

Dr Mike Double - Chief Scientist

Mike Double

As a zoologist and geneticist, I lead the Australian Marine Mammal Centre (AMMC). We conduct scientific research that contributes to the conservation and management of marine mammals around Australia, through the Pacific and in Antarctic waters. Our Centre’s research leads the way in informing the world about all whale species. Our non-lethal scientific research shows that you don’t need to kill whales to study them. As the Chief Scientist on this voyage, our aim is to explore the interdependent roles of whales and krill in the Antarctic ecosystem, to inform the management of expanding krill fisheries. This is the most comprehensive scientific voyage ever undertaken on Antarctic blue whales and their prey, Antarctic krill.

Dr Elanor Bell - Deputy Chief Scientist / Biogeochemist

I am a microbial ecologist by training but have turned my hand from whale food to the whales themselves. On this voyage we’ll be doing the first in-field experiments to test the theory that whales fertilise the ocean with iron, after eating iron-rich krill and excreting the metal in their faeces. We’ll sample water in areas with whales and krill, whales only, krill only, and neither species. The sampling will reveal where the iron goes, how fast it sinks, and whether primary production increases over time.

Dr Karen Westwood - Voyage Project Manager / Biogeochemist

Karen Westwood

My research focusses on single celled organisms in the Southern Ocean called marine microbes (bacteria, phytoplankton, protozoa). These organisms are important for two main reasons: they form the base of the Antarctic food web, and they drive the biological pump in the Southern Ocean where up to 12 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions are absorbed. I’ll be examining whether whales stimulate primary and bacterial production through their iron-rich faeces (iron normally limits growth of marine microbes), by deploying a marker buoy to drift with a whale “poo-patch”, and by sampling in regions where whales and krill are present or absent.

Dr Brian Miller - Whale Acoustician

Brian Miller

To find the blue whales in the vast Southern Ocean, we’ll use small underwater listening devices called sonobuoys to locate and track them. These can detect the whale’s low frequency calls from up to 1000 kilometres away. Real-time acoustic tracking provides a reliable and efficient way to find extremely rare Antarctic blue whales. Sonobuoy surveys may also provide an important link between visually observed behaviour and acoustic behaviour.

Dr Joshua Smith - Unmanned Aerial System Operator / Marine Mammal Observer

Joshua Smith

My main research interests focus on marine mammal behaviour and behavioural ecology, bioacoustics and spatial risk assessments. On this voyage, I will be leading the drone operations to obtain measurements and photo-identification of the whales. We also hope to obtain blow samples from the whales to collect mucus when the whale exhales as a way of monitoring the health of the whale, and will also attempt to sample surface water for whale faeces.

Dr So Kawaguchi - Krill Ecologist

So Kawaguchi

Using the RV Investigator’s multibeam echosounders, we want to develop the first 3D models of the shape, size, and density of krill swarms underwater, near whales and elsewhere. Krill swarms can be deep or shallow, dense or diffuse, but little is known about the different swarm types and whether some are more attractive to whales than others. We’ll also do some targeted krill trawls to gather information on the species, biomass and size.

This page was last modified on February 4, 2019.