01 March 2012

Lights, camera, Antarctic penguin action!

ANTARCTICA - You might think that living at the ends of the earth would keep you from society's prying eyes. But that isn't the case for Antarctica's remote residents - Adelie penguins.

For the past six summers, cameras set up by scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division have recorded the lives of Adelies nesting near the Australian stations of Mawson, Davis and Casey along the the East Antarctic coast.

This summer, the scientists intend to extend the camera network even further with a camera in Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay, and eventually want to see an international network of such cameras across Antarctica. To this end, the Australian Antarctic Division has given two cameras to French and US researchers to trial them on the Antarctic Peninsula.

The cameras are solar-powered, so they begin rolling when daylight returns to Antarctica in October. This allows the scientists to see what the penguins are up to long before weather conditions allow them to conduct fieldwork. The cameras then take photos daily until the end of the breeding season, when the darkness comes back and the penguins return to sea. They can operate over a number of years and save the expense of researchers observing the penguins in the field.

"Cameras will give us an idea of breeding success, with daily photographs allowing us to count nests at the beginning of the season and the number of chicks at the end of the season," Australian Antarctic Division ecologist Colin Southwell told AAP.

Dr Southwell and his team will use the data from the camera network along with older surveys and records to build a more definitive picture of changes in the Adelie populations over the past 30 years, and to then use those to explore and identify the drivers of those changes.

Sources
Scientists train cameras on Adelie penguin by Lloyd Jones, 13 January 2012, Ninemsm
Penguin-cam to keep watch on the waddlers by Jo Chandler, 30 December 2011, The Sydney Morning Herald

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