Penguin monitoring

Ben Collen

Feather collectingThe camera traps have been working well from what we can tell, though the real test will be how they survive the next few months.  We have now put cameras in a variety of locations, overlooking 3 different species of penguin. Site visits require us to land from the ship by zodiac, which can be somewhat wet and wild in the strong winds we’ve been having.  Then a hike up the hill to scout out the best location to mount the camera.  We’ve got ourselves together now, and can pretty much have a camera set up in 10 minutes from when we’ve identified the right location. We then walk back through the penguin colony, collecting feathers for the all important conservation genetics part of the monitoring project.  Gentoo penguin and fur sealHaving information on population structure, which we can extract from penguin feather DNA gives us a powerful tool with which to shape conservation management decisions, while the cameras should hopefully give us long term information on how each species is coping with changes in climate.  Initial findings from other studies suggest the impacts are likely to vary greatly between species. Antarctica is breathtakingly spectacular.  This morning, I awoke to open the curtains to a humpback mother and calf – barely 40m from the ship. I have also developed a fascination with icebergs, which has resulted in my computer hard drive creaking under the weight of all the photos.  Tomorrow, we head to our final stop in half moon bay, before the trip back across the imposing Drake Passage.Adelie penguin Now, just one more iceberg photo…

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