22 October 2013

Ancient penguin history on the agenda this Australian Antarctic season

AUSTRALIA - This Antarctic summer, Australian Antarctic Division seabird ecologist Dr Barbara Wienecke will head a "penguin archaeology" project on abandoned Adélie penguin sites to try to find out whether the birds’ diet may have changed over the past few thousand years.

The 2013/14 Antarctic season began on 15 October with the departure of the research and resupply ship, Aurora Australis, from Hobart.

“We will be digging down into the old soils formed from bird waste and looking for the remains of prey, such as otoliths (fish ear bones) and squid beaks,” Dr Wienecke said.

“It is the first time this type of work has been done in the Davis region and we are hopeful of finding out whether Adélie diets changed in the past, for example, from krill to fish-based diets.

“Gaining this knowledge can help manage Southern Ocean fisheries to avoid disrupting the Antarctic food chain."

During her five months at Davis station, Dr Wienecke, who is a recent Australian Antarctic Medal recipient, will also monitor snow petrels and collect scat samples of various flying birds for genetic analysis.

Penguin history and marine microbes a part of Australian Antarctic season agenda [media release], 15 October 2013, Australian Antarctic Division

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