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February 19, 2019

The krill factor in ocean mixing

Engineers investigating impact of krill swarms on ocean mixing, and possibly global climate

Scientists have long chalked up ocean mixing of salt, heat, nutrients and gases, such as oxygen and carbon dioxide, to wind and tides. New research is investigating another possible contributor: krill. Mixing ocean water may seem like a big job for such a tiny creature, but krill are a force of nature when they migrate in giant swarms to feed at night. With support from the National Science Foundation, Stanford University engineer John Dabiri and his team are using lab experiments to understand the fluid dynamics of swarm migrations through a stratified water column. If the vertical migrations of krill and other organisms are playing a significant role in ocean mixing, that should impact future calculations about ocean circulation and the global climate.

The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1510607, Collaborative Research: Multiscale interactions between active particles and stratified fluids during collective vertical migration.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Kate Tobin, Science Nation Producer

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