The project in a nutshell!
The emperor penguin is an iconic seabird, found in colonies distributed around the entirety of the Antarctic coastline. They rely on fast ice (sea ice physically adhered to land) for the majority of their life cycle. The emperor penguin is an iconic seabird breeding on the Antarctic sea ice during the incredibly harsh winter. Low sea ice extent reduces the availability of breeding sites and food. High sea ice extent causes longer foraging trips for parents to reach areas of open water, and hence decreases the food delivered to the chicks. As such, they are susceptible to environmental change, such as decreases in the extent and duration of sea ice around Antarctica.
Using satellites, ground and flight/helicopter survey estimates, the goal of our project is to generate population estimates for every colony of emperor penguins (54 are known currently) over the course of 10 years. The project is led by Michelle Larue (University of Minnesota, and Stephanie Jenouvrier (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution).
Researchers will also integrate the population trends with environmental variables (e.g., sea-ice extent and duration) to learn about conditions that may influence population and whether those fluctuations are global or regional in nature.
We will be a team of four scientists deploying to McMurdo Station in mid October, where we will remain for four weeks. McMurdo Station is based in the Ross sea in Antarctica. The team is composed of Michelle Larue, Leonardo Salas, Dave Iles and Sara Labrousse.
Our mission will be to fly aerial surveys over near-station emperor penguin colonies within the vicinity of the station, including one Basler aircraft flight covering Beaufort Island, Franklin Island, Cape Washington, Coulman Island, and Cape Roget; and up to four helicopter flights over Cape Crozier and possibly Beaufort Island. During surveys, we will take photographs through the windows and record bird counts.