06 November 2016

The habits of highly effective penguins

Little penguin. Credit: Massey University
NEW ZEALAND – Researchers from Massey University and the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony are working together to improve conservation of little penguins by uncovering the characteristics of a successful penguin.

The researchers will measure penguins' responses to handling and see how these responses are related to breeding success, foraging behaviour and other features of their biology.

They will conduct the research at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony and nearby Oamaru Creek Penguin Refuge, which have more than 300 breeding pairs of little penguins.

05 November 2016

Study shows mixed fortunes for Signy penguins

Gentoo penguins.
Photo credit: British Antarctic Survey
ANTARCTICA – A forty year study on a remote Antarctic island shows that while populations of two penguin species are declining, a third is increasing.

Analysis of census data from Signy Island in the South Orkney Islands reveals that, between 1978 and 2016, the number of chinstrap penguin pairs declined by nearly 70% and pairs of Adélie penguins dropped by more than 40%, but the number of gentoo penguin pairs more than trebled.

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) say they have yet to understand the reasons behind the population changes but they mirror similar studies elsewhere.

04 November 2016

Citizen scientists can now lend a hand in penguin conservation

Adelie penguin nesting on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Photo credit: Heather Lynch, Stony Brook University
USA – Ordinary citizens now have the opportunity to be penguin detectives and help scientists find Antarctica's undiscovered penguin colonies after the launch of a website that tracks Antarctic penguin populations.

The interactive and user-friendly tool was developed by Heather J. Lynch, PhD, an Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University, and colleagues. It is the first of its kind, and provides a lens into the world of scientists who analyse penguin living patterns, which are a strong indicator of climate change effects.

Dr Lynch and Mathew R. Schwaller, PhD, at NASA Goddard teamed up with Oceanites, Inc. to develop the Mapping Application for Penguin Populations and Projected Dynamics (MAPPPD): www.penguinmap.com.

02 November 2016

New crowdfunding campaign puts penguins under the microscope

AUSTRALIA – With more than half of the world’s penguin species under threat from extinction, a new Deakin University research project is seeking to investigate the role of microbes in penguin health, physiology and disease.

Researcher from Deakin University’s Centre for Integrative Ecology within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Dr Meagan Dewar, hopes to build knowledge about the basic biology of penguins.

More importantly, she also hopes to gain detailed data about the importance of microbes to penguins' digestion, metabolism, immune system and overall health.

“Many scientists consider penguins to be a sentinel for ocean health, providing valuable information about the health and productivity of our marine ecosystems,” Dr Dewar said.

“If penguins are sentinels for ocean health, then microbes could be considered as sentinels for penguin health.”