Globally, penguins are declining in response to climate change, and this climate change is particularly concerning in Antarctica.
We are already seeing declines in Emperor and Adélie penguins (which nest on ice), while less ice-tolerant gentoo and chinstrap penguins are stable or increasing.
The aim of this project is to collect DNA from penguins across the Scotia Arc from South Georgia, to the South Sandwich Islands, the South Orkney Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula (an arc of approximately 1,800 nautical miles). We use this to work out how penguins are likely to respond to climate change. We will then use this data to create priority areas for conservation.
Using resources and expertise from the Institute of Zoology, we will initiate a project that will answer these important questions. Using DNA, it is possible to work out population structure as well as historic population size from a relatively small number of present-day samples.
We will be visiting regions of the Antarctic that are not often visited by cruise ships or researchers. Over the next two years, we will be collecting DNA samples from penguins from the Antarctic peninsula to South Georgia. The South Sandwich Islands form an island arc between the Southeast of South Georgia and Northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
These are the most important islands for our study because very little is known about the penguins that live on them. The expeditions will involve visiting all of these islands to assess the health of these populations.