• Kim Bernard

Meet the team - Julia Fontana, Undergraduate student

Updated: Apr 11

[Blog written by Julia Fontana]

For The Krill of it All!


Originally from Southern California, I never expected to be in Antarctica, especially not for 6 months in the winter! The past few weeks since arriving at Palmer Station have been extremely busy but extremely rewarding. With lots of exploring, setting up labs and starting our experiments, Palmer certainly has a lot to offer!


Julia Fontana on the back deck of the RV Laurence M. Gould. Photo credit: Kim Bernard.

Life at Palmer Station has been great so far, with food that is way too good, people from all sorts of awesome backgrounds, and enough hobbies to keep you busy while not working, it is impossible not to enjoy yourself.


As an undergraduate senior at Oregon State University, I will be graduating with a BS in Ocean Science this June! While I am here, I will be conducting a senior thesis studying diurnal variability in juvenile Antarctic krill respiration rates. Our respiration experiment, among many others, started on Monday April 29th and was planned to run through Thursday morning giving us at least 48 hours of good data (we discard the first ~12 hours of data). Setting up the experiment included working in an environmental room set at -1˚C transferring individual krill into bottles fitted with oxygen sensors.


Julia Fontana in the -1˚C environmental room, checking on her krill. Photo credit: Kim Bernard

Using fiber-optic cables we are able to connect the sensors to a computer where data will be recorded every minute for the duration of the experiment. AKA, A very cold but very cool experiment! Sadly, due to a computer update on Wednesday night, our experiment was ended prematurely. But, after having successfully re-calibrated the instruments, we restarted the experiment on Monday May 6th and hope to run until Thursday hopefully getting the 48 hours of good data that we need. [Update from Kim, the experiment was a success and Julia is now learning how to process the data!]


Throughout the past two weeks, Kirsten and I have been on a mission to collect copepods and other zooplankton that will be used to feed the krill on the carnivorous diet treatment of our long-term feeding experiment (see this blog for a summary of our project).

Kirsten Steinke (left) and Julia Fontana (right) with their zooplankton catch on RHIB Hadar at Station E off Palmer Station. Photo credit: Julia Fontana.

We have successfully collected a couple months’ worth of food, but are still in pursuit for more. Thus, we created our light trap. Using a 4L Nalgene bottle, we cut holes in the side and covered these with a 64µm mesh (so the copepods can’t escape), taped a funnel to the opening and added a waterproof light inside. The idea is the zooplankton can come in but can’t get out (similar to a fly trap).


Julia Fontana working on the light trap in the Carpentry Shop, Palmer Station, under the supervision of Carpenter Rick Osburn. Photo credit: Kirsten Steinke.

Turns out, light traps don’t just attract zooplankton…

The morning after we deployed our light trap on the dock, the Boat House called and said we had a leopard seal playing with the trap! He was all over the dock biting and toying with the trap! After managing to get the leopard seal away and getting the light trap out of the water, we decided to go back to the drawing board on how to effectively collect zooplankton … and minimize the attraction of leopard seals!


Testing out the light trap indoors first. Photo credit: Kirsten Steinke.

I am so excited to see what is in store for the rest of the winter as these past few weeks have already been filled with so many awesome things! I am so grateful to be working alongside Dr. Kim Bernard and Kirsten Steinke this winter, I could not have asked for a better team!