LSU professor co-authors study on Antarctic penguin 'super-colonies'

LSU professor co-authors study on Antarctic penguin 'super-colonies'


Scientists, including one LSU Professor, discovered a super-colony of more than one and a half million penguins during an expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula. The team used new drone technology to get the first ever count of the population of penguins on the Danger Islands.

Their findings were published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports. Among the co-authors of the study, Michael Polito, assistant professor in the department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at LSU.

“In 2006, I had the chance to visit one of the Danger Islands and was amazed by the sheer number of Adélie penguins I saw. The water around the island boiled with penguins. But with only two hours on land it was impossible to estimate the size of the population before sea ice conditions forced us to leave,” Polito said.

In 2015, Polito returned to the islands with a team that included researchers from LSU, Oxford University, Stony Brook University, Northeastern University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The scientists used new drone technology to get a better count of the penguins.
Using multiple simultaneous counts on the ground, quadcopter-based aerial photography and high-resolution satellite imagery they found that the Danger Islands have 751,527 pairs of Adélie penguins, more than the rest of the entire Antarctic Peninsula region combined. This discovery means these islands include the third and fourth largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world.

“The results of our study indicate that not only do the Danger Islands hold the largest population of Adélie penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula, they also appear to have not suffered the populations declines found along the western side of Antarctic Peninsula that are associated with recent climate change,” Polito said.

The researchers believe the discovery of this breeding colony offers a valuable benchmark for future change and will help understand how and why climate change affects this species.

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