30 January 2011

Blog stars penguins, robots and satellites

I can fly!!!!
Adelie penguins on ice.
Photo by StormPetrel1. Some rights reserved.
A blog about penguins, underwater robots and space satellites sounds more like the work of a science fiction writer than a scientist. But the University of Delaware's assistant professor of oceanography Matthew Oliver is using the university's Ocean Bytes blog to discuss those very things.

On the blog Mr Oliver shares the experiences of a team of researchers from the University of Delaware, Rutgers University, Polar Oceans Research Group and California Polytechnic State University, who are using underwater robots and satellites to understand where and how Adelie penguins feed.

The research team are based on the West Antarctic Peninsula, one of the most rapidly warming regions on the planet. Since 1950, the temperature there has risen 6°C, causing the glaciers to retreat and the extent and duration of sea-ice to significantly decrease. Adelie penguins depend on the sea-ice, so the researchers want to know how are they adapting to the warming conditions.

The scientists identify "good" penguins to be fitted with satellite-linked transmitters that allow them to map the penguins' foraging tracks. Once they know where the feeding hotspots are, they use robots (autonomous underwater vehicles - AUVs) to do additional surveys in those places and further examine the penguins' foraging habits.

Mr Oliver says on the blog, "All in all it is a pretty awesome mission to track these penguins from space and AUV's. We will all see how the season develops!" And thanks to the Ocean Bytes blog, we can.

Penguins, AUV's, satellites: Together at last by Matthew Oliver, 21 January 2011, Ocean Bytes
Penguins from space by Matthew Oliver, 14 December 2010, Ocean Bytes
Penguins, robots and satellites: New blog share Antarctic research, 24 January 2011, University of Delaware

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