A View to a Krill CSI researchers bring academics to the Antarctic

Antarctic krill are small, shrimp-like crustaceans which are abundant in the Southern Oceans and may become a potentially valuable source of protein for human and livestock consumption.

But how would wide-scale commercial krill harvesting affect the delicate and protected Antarctic ecosystem? That is what the research team from CSI is hoping to predict with advanced computer modeling of krill, and the behaviors of the birds that feed upon them.

Many Americans may be unfamiliar with krill, but they are one of the most important planktonic (floating or weakly swimming) crustaceans in the Southern Oceans. Krill feed upon phytoplankton (planktonic plant life) and since krill are high in protein, they are an important food source for almost all larger organisms such as mussels, fish, seals, whales, penguins, and birds.

The team from CSI was headed by Biology Professor Richard Veit. Veit, a bird ecologist and biostatistician, also served as primary researcher. He was joined by Mathematics and Physics Professor Bala Sundaram, and seven CSI students. Richard Heil, an ornithologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accompanied them as they collected data in an attempt to predict how large-scale krill harvesting might affect indigenous bird populations of cape petrels and albatross.

They spent a month near Elephant Island, off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, not only observing large gatherings of krill, called swarms, but also recording in detail the behavior of birds in the same vicinity.

The expedition was funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs, which required the trip to combine research and teaching. This provided the perfect opportunity for Veit to engage CSI students in the research. The students were required to enroll in a series of courses to help them fully understand the procedures, problems, and protocols that a research project like this would demand.

After flying into Punta Arenas, Chile, the researchers boarded an NSF research vessel Laurence M. Gould, and began their ocean voyage to Antarctica. December is the beginning of the Antarctic summer, meaning temperatures hover near 30 degrees Fahrenheit, winds could gust to 75 miles per hour, and ocean swells could top 40 feet, breaking over the deck of the ship. The Gould needed to deliver supplies to the research scientists in residence at Palmer Station before heading off towards Elephant Island and the around-the-clock task of data collection.

The researchers towed an echosounder along the starboard side of the ship to minimize prop noise. The data sent back to the ship was their window to the underwater world of Antarctica. This echosounder, which works similar to equipment used by deep-sea fishermen, was used to locate and study the krill swarms, which tend to ride along on the eastward flowing current through the Drake Passage, between South America and Antarctica.

As the Gould navigated northward along six different 25-mile, north-south paths called transects, details of the swarms were recorded, including their location, density, and depth. Southward bound, they employed a deep ocean probe called a CTD, which recorded data on the water’s Conductivity and Temperature at varying Depths. The ship’s location was recorded via a Global Positioning System (GPS) every 12 seconds.

One swarm they encountered was approximately 6 miles long and 80 meters thick. Krill swarms could involve thousand of tons of krill and have a density as high as 10,000 organisms per cubic meter. Why the krill congregate in swarms is unknown, it may be because of temperature, ocean salinity, nutrient deposits, or based upon the Antarctic currents.

As they tracked the location of krill and the condition of the water, the researchers also recorded the species and number of birds along the transect lines and the details of their behavior. Since daylight was present approximately 21 hours a day and the other three hours were a dusky twilight, they recorded data on the birds 24 hours a day, working in 12-hour shifts, standing on the deck of the ship in wind-chills that often dipped below zero (0) degrees Fahrenheit.

To create a valid database, each bird needed to be in constant sight for a minimum of two minutes. The observers tracked the birds, which could fly at nearly 40 miles per hour, while team members recorded the behavioral data of the birds (where they fly, turning patterns, water dives, sitting on the water surface, etc.) This information was entered into laptop computers and personal digital assistants (PDAs), building a thorough database to more accurately generate a bird distribution and behavior map.

Undergraduate student Cristina Rhodes
kept a journal and photo log on her trip…

Veit says that a final goal of this project is to construct mathematical models to determine how birds may behave depending on the presence or absence of krill in a given location. Another goal is to eventually discover how the birds locate krill swarms (e.g., visual or olfactory cues, the behavior of other birds or mammals) and how the birds behave when they detect the prey, as well as how much krill needs to be present and how close to the ocean surface the crustaceans need to be for the birds to become interested.

Since a good portion of the computer modeling involves mathematics, Professor Sundaram joined the expedition. His first-hand accounting of how the data is collected and what kind of data is available helped shape the acquisition models to facilitate data correlation and improve the projection model’s accuracy.

Sundaram also put together a computer presentation of the research work in Antarctica for his daughter’s grade school class. “Children love penguins,” Sundaram commented, “so I included some photos and facts for them. But more than just the penguins, the presentation opened up the world of science and mathematics and its possibilities to them, awaking their sense of imagination. Hopefully they will carry with them the understanding of how penguins, birds, krill and the entire Antarctic ecosystem are so closely intertwined with mathematics.”

Based on the excitement of the grade-schoolers, other educators have asked Sundaram and Veit to participate in their classes. Their dynamic presentation is replete with living examples of Antarctic krill and inflatable penguins, instilling in the students the long-lasting and profound effect of real-world interdisciplinary study.

Back in the office, Sundaram, assisted by Ph.D. student Jarrod Santora, faced a monumental task in correlating the 20 gigabytes of data they collected. Each database–krill population, bird population and behavior, and water conditions–has been compiled using dedicated software packages. These individual databases have been cleaned up and are currently being compiled and synchronized to the same 12-second intervals recorded by the GPS system. “Jarrod is really earning his Ph.D. with this one,” said Veit, “and once the data is synchronized we can move onto analyzing it.”

What do they hope to accomplish by running this data in a real-time model? To find an algorithm, or set of rules, to describe how the birds behave in the presence of large swarms of krill. “We want to build a model,” Sundaram explains, “that would have these birds flying around on a computer…looking for krill.”

If krill eventually become a target of commercial fishermen, whether to provide krill as a delicacy or as chicken feed, scientists will have a computer model to estimate how mass harvests may impact the Antarctic ecosystem.

At present, only a small amount of krill harvesting (approximately 400,000 tons per year) is taking place because it is an expensive proposition. Norwegians consume krill in the form of a high protein paste and the Japanese enjoy them cooked and peeled, much like shrimp.

Currently, there is no supply route or transportation structure in place to move the harvested krill to destinations worldwide. Veit recalls that the Soviets used to send factory trawlers that would otherwise have been unused during the harsh Russian winters to harvest the krill. Although it was a large-scale operation with 10 to 12 factory-sized trawlers, the Soviets never made any money–it was merely a way to put the ships to work. Once the USSR collapsed in the early 1990s, the new Russian government abandoned the harvests for economic reasons.

However, once the logistical problems have been sorted out regarding the mass harvesting of krill, commercial fishermen may turn to krill as a new protein source in feeding human and livestock populations. The data collected and the models developed by the researchers at CSI may prove to assist in the formulation international policies as we feed our world and protect the delicate and balanced ecosystem of Antarctica.

As for Veit, he plans to head back to Antarctica again at the end of this year for his 12th trip to the region to conduct further research. Veit’s current NSF grant, which provides $85,000 per year for four years, ends in 2004. Students at the College of Staten Island with a taste for adventure have the opportunity to cross more than just the Verrazano Bridge. They may join Veit, crossing international boundaries and numerous time zones, experiencing firsthand the fascinating world of international research and the wondrous environment of the frozen Antarctic continent.

Congressman Fossella Arranges for Opening of Compensation Fund Help Center to Assist Families of 9/11 Center to Operate at CSI the Week of March 25

Congressman Vito Fossella (R-NY) today announced that the temporary Staten Island Victim’s Compensation Fund Help Center will be located on the campus of the College of Staten Island beginning the week of March 25. Fossella arranged for the opening of the Center last month to assist the families of September 11.

The Help Center will be staffed by four to five representatives of the Special Master’s Office and be open Monday, March 25 to Friday, March 29 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. and Saturday, March 30, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Help Center will be located on the grounds of the College of Staten Island (2800 Victory Blvd.) in Building 1P (CSI Center for the Arts).

Families who wish to meet with a counselor are urged to make an
appointment by calling 703-633-4761. Walk-in service is also available, but is first-come, first-served. Families who meet with a counselor will not be required to enroll in the Victim’s Compensation Fund. The Help Center is purely for informational purposes.

“The Help Center will give every family the opportunity to meet directly with a representative of the Special Master about the Fund,” Fossella said. “It appears that many people are still unsure about certain aspects of the plan and how it affects their families. The counselors will
be able to walk each of them through the regulations on a case-by-case basis and answer all of their questions. It is tragic that Staten Island lost so many people on September 11, and we want to do all we can to make this process as convenient for them as possible.”

“During these difficult times, it is especially important that we all help each other when and where we can,” said College of Staten Island President Dr. Marlene Springer. “CSI continues to grieve for the losses suffered by so many Staten Island families as we contribute energetically to the process of rebuilding our community. By working with Congressman Fossella and hosting the Help Center, we hope to make this time a little easier for friends and neighbors profoundly affected by the tragedy of September 11.”

The counselors will review the financial information of families and offer an estimated amount of compensation they would receive if they opt into the federal plan. The counselors will also be able to discuss unique circumstances of potential claimants.

The Help Center counselors will be located in their own classrooms or conference rooms to guarantee each family complete privacy. A waiting area will also be available for families to relax before meeting with a counselor. The counselors are expected to be equipped with computers that are connected to the Special Master’s main network. In addition, families will be able to obtain, among other information, the final regulations, eligibility forms, applications and fact sheets.

Fossella first raised the idea of establishing a temporary Help Center on Staten Island with the Special Master’s Office last week. The Center at the College of Staten Island is the first temporary facility to be established in the nation. The Special Master’s Office operates permanent Help Center’s in Manhattan and Long Island; Jersey City and Edison, New Jersey; Arlington, Virginia; Boston, Massachusetts, and Stamford, Connecticut.

CSI Welcomes Award Winning Author Chanrithy Him along with Film Crew from Denmark for a special program and documentary on "The Will to Live."

The CSI Center for International Service presents an unforgettable speaker, Ms.Chanrithy Him, speaking of her experiences, as a child growing up under the rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. When the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, Ms. Him’s father was executed and her family, stripped of all their belongings, were assigned to work in the labor camps. Public murders were routine, starvation and epidemics ravaged the population. From a family of 12, only 5 siblings survived, emigrating to America under the sponsorship of their uncle. Ms. Him’s story is told in her award winning book “When Broken Glass Floats”.

Alongside her dance presentations and philosophical discussions with the CSI community is the filming of a documentary film called “The Will to Live”.

The Danish filmmaker Anne Gyrithe Bonne, well-known in Europe for her work in film and broadcasting, along with cameraman Erik Molberg Hansen, are completing the film at CSI, which is due to be released next year. This work will document the way in which dignity and strength, universal human qualities, can develop in the midst of terrible mistreatment and persecution; and it will stress the power of reconciliation.

The film profiles three “survivors” whose stories have been an inspiration to others; Nobel Prize Winner Desmond Tutu of South Africa, medical doctor and human-rights activist Juan Almendares of Honduras and Chanrithy Him. It has received support from many human-rights organizations as well as the Danish government.

The film begins with the coincidental arrival of the filmmakers to South Africa on September 11. It ends with their visit to CSI and New York City six months later.

CSI presents The Willowbrook Lawsuit – 30 Years After

On March 17, 1972, parents with children in the Willowbrook State School filed a lawsuit to force the state to improve conditions there. Three years later, all parties signed the Willowbrook Consent Decree, a legal agreement which changed the treatment of the developmentally disabled in New York State and ultimately, the nation.

To mark the 30th anniversary of this historic milestone, the College of Staten Island (CSI) Library Archives and Special Collections is presenting a roundtable discussion about the legacy of Willowbrook.

Participants include:

* Elizabeth Connelly, former New York State Assemblywoman
* Sal Giordano, parent and member of the Willowbrook Commission Task Force
* Hal Kennedy, attorney and leading advocate for the disabled, and
* David Goode, moderator, and professor of sociology at the CSI

The Archives will display documents and photographs from the newly established Willowbrook Collection, which contains materials associated with the history of the Willowbrook State School and disabilities.

Date: Monday, March 18, 2002

Time: 6:30 p.m. Reception, 7:00 p.m. Program

Place: College of Staten Island, 2800 Victory Boulevard, Library Archives and Special Collections, 1L-216

This program is free and open to the public. It will be taped for broadcast on WSIA 88.9 FM.

For additional information, contact Dr. Jeffrey Kroessler in the Archives: (718) 982-4021.

CSI Tops in CUNY for Fulbright Fellowships Three of Seven CUNY Awardees from CSI

Fulbright Fellowships have been awarded to seven faculty members at the City University of New York (CUNY) for 2001-2002. Three of these seven outstanding scholars are on faculty at the College of Staten Island (CSI). Their topics range from American literature; comparing politics between Indonesia and the U.S.; and teaching American philosophy in China. Daniel Fuchs, Professor Emeritus of English, is lecturing on American literature at Jagiellonian Univeristy, Krakow, Poland; Stefano M. Harney, Assistant Professor of Sociology is lecturing and conducting research on “Politics and Public Administration: a Comparative Perspective on Indonesia and the United States” at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia; and Peter P. Simpson, Professor of Philosophy, is lecturing on “Contemporary American Political and Moral Philosophy: Nature, Sources and Prospects” at the People’s (Renmin) University of China, Beijing, China.

“It is extremely rewarding to know that the pursuit of excellence by CSI faculty has been recognized by the Fulbright Board, and that the prestigious host universities will know the quality of faculty that we have come to expect everyday,” said Dr. Marlene Springer, President of CSI.

Fulbright Fellowships have been awarded to other CUNY faculty: two at Queens College and one each at Baruch College and Hunter College. Additionally, eight Fulbright Fellows from distinguished foreign universities have chosen CUNY to pursue their research and teaching in New York City; three at the CUNY Graduate Center; two at City College; and one each at Brooklyn College and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Under a cooperative agreement with the Bureau, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) is a private, non-profit organization and assists in the administration of the Fulbright Scholar Program for faculty and professionals. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the United States Congress to the Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions in foreign countries and in the U.S. also contribute financially. The Presidentially appointed J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board is responsible for the final selection of all Fulbright grantees and the supervision of the Fulbright Program worldwide.

The College of Staten Island is a senior college with the City University of New York. For additional information, visit their website at: www.csi.cuny.edu

CSI Alumni Group Plans Seventh Annual "A Taste of… the Mediterranean."

Michael Lomonaco, who lost his famous Windows on the World restaurant in the World Trade Center attacks, serves as honorary chair for the seventh annual “A Taste of… the Mediterranean” event, to be held by the College of Staten Island Alumni Association. Lomonaco was head chef/director of Windows on the World atop the North Tower since 1997, and has previously worked at Le Cirque, Maxwell’s Plum and the “21” Club.

Association members met this week and finalized plans for the event, which will be held March 9 at 6 p.m. in the college’s Campus Center, Building 1C, on the Willowbrook campus. Tickets will be available beginning Saturday, February 9.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for February 11 at 7 p.m.

For additional information or to be put on the mailing list, contact Jaclyn Unger at 982-2290.