Newswise — BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The photo captures the beauty of a largely unexplored part of the world. It also captures the joy of a life’s work realized. The video tells the story of the research pioneer, and it will air this week, showcasing the work that has been a central focus for four decades.
Margaret Amsler, Ph.D., is among researchers featured in the NHK documentary “Hunt for the Giant Squid” that is set to air Thursday at 3 p.m. Central time on Nat Geo Wild. The University of Alabama at Birmingham world-renowned biologist was one of three science advisers invited to participate in the 2017 NHK production, which was one of the first cruises using a manned submersible to document sea floor communities in Antarctica.
“I was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity and be able to contribute to an utterly awesome and deep outreach effort,” the College of Arts and Sciences researcher said recently from Palmer Station in Antarctica, where she continues to study krill, chemical ecology and ocean acidification. “Krill is my most favorite critter in the kingdom. On my first dive, I was quite overcome with emotion as the enormity of the adventure sunk in, and especially when I viewed my first krill as the sub quietly dropped into the ‘twilight zone’ depth. They are even more beautiful in person. They swim with great elegance and speed in their natural environment.”
Amsler has worked in the Antarctic for more than 40 years, studying krill, chemical ecology and ocean acidification. Just this week, Amsler completed her 500th career dive into the frigid Antarctic waters.
The 2017 dive filmed by NHK took Amsler to a depth of 1,001 meters to document sea floor communities in Antarctica. It is likely that she became the first woman ever to make a submersible dive there. Amsler was there to continue her study of krill, the most abundant animal in the ocean. It provides a crucial source of food for whales, fish and birds. Humpbacks can eat thousands in one mouthful.
Antarctic krill are the largest on Earth at 6 cm in length — double the size of krill elsewhere. Yet despite their abundance, krill are rarely seen near the surface. The animal also is considered to be incredibly vital to the overall structure of the ecosystem.
“It was unbelievable — and dismaying — how many animals in the water column and on the bottom gulp or snare krill,” Amsler said. “Yet, despite rampant predation, the species remains astoundingly abundant, most likely due to its many specialized adaptations and behaviors.”
In the documentary, Amsler is able to go to depths at which whales are seldom seen. Within minutes, her submersible was surrounded by thousands of krill. The swarming krill were so dense that Amsler appears to be in an underwater blizzard. It is a moment that would not have been possible without the submersible.
“Earth’s deep oceans hold so many wonders and secrets,” she said. “Submersible use could so greatly expand our understanding of the world ocean. I hope that documentaries, such as those produced with the generous funding of the Ray Dalio Foundation, will serve to enhance appreciation for and protection of our marvelous marine environments shallow and deep.”
“The Hunt for the Giant Squid” documentary was the last installment of the NHK series “Giants of the Deep.” The expedition was possible thanks to a grant to NHK from the Ray Dalio Foundation (now Ocean X), which funds proposals that partner science and media, like nature documentaries.
Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center, as well as Alabama’s largest employer, with some 23,000 employees, and has an annual economic impact exceeding $7 billion on the state. The five pillars of UAB’s mission include education, research, patient care, community service and economic development. UAB is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Center for Translational Science Award. Learn more at www.uab.edu. UAB: Powered by will.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on all subsequent references.