That’s exactly what a team of researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) did on a recent expedition to the Danger Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula. The islands are home to Adélie penguin “supercolonies” like this one, which can number in the hundreds of thousands of birds. To estimate the size of these large penguin breeding colonies, WHOI seabird biologist Stephanie Jenouvrier, MIT-WHOI Joint Program graduate student Thomas-Sayre McChord, and colleagues are using aerial photographs taken from a quadcopter drone (inset below), along with ground counts and high-resolution satellite imagery. The researchers also obtained baseline data on the penguins’ diet, population dynamics, and genetic relationships. The overall goal is to better assess how projected climate changes will affect penguins in this region.
This research was supported by the Dalio Explore Fund. The research team included Stephanie Jenouvrier, Hanumant Singh, Michael Polito, and Michael Sayre-McChord (WHOI), Heather Lynch (Stony Brook University), and Tom Hart (University of Oxford).