2002-2003 Science Planning Summary

Biology & Medicine

Dr. Polly Penhale
Program Manager


NSF/OPP 99-80641
Station: Not based at a station
RPSC POC: John Evans
Research Site(s): Copacabana field camp on King George Island

Foraging behavior and demography of pygoscelis penguins
Dr. Wayne Z. Trivelpiece
Montana State University Bozeman
Department of Ecology

Deploying Team Members: Stacey Buckelew . Laura Morse . Ladislav Rektoris . Iris Saxer . Susan G Trivelpiece . Wayne Z Trivelpiece
Research Objectives: How well organisms thrive in their environment is often revealed by basic ecological relationships. For two decades at Admiralty Bay on King George Island in the Antarctic Peninsula region, data have been collected on several species of penguins, including the Adélie, gentoo and chinstrap. Looking at some of the basic aspects of the lives of these predators - such as survival and recruitment, population size and breeding success, and diets and foraging ecology - scientists have been able to develop and test key hypotheses about variability in the antarctic marine ecosystem.

This project focuses on one of these relationships. As the extent of sea-ice cover changes with the season and year-by-year, krill (a key food web species in the Southern Ocean that accounts for nearly 100 percent of the prey eaten by dominant predators such as baleen whales, seals, and penguins) are more or less abundant, which directly affects the population biology of the penguins. Years with heavy winter and extensive sea ice paradoxically favor krill recruitment, because larval krill find refuge and food in the sea-ice habitat. The long-term seabird research indicates that in those same, heavy sea-ice years, Adélie but not chinstrap penguins are also favored.

To explore these relationships, project team members will capture adult and juvenile penguins periodically to band, measure, and weigh them, and to collect blood and diet samples for genetic and physiologic studies. During the breeding season, the penguins and the sea ice will be observed by satellite. Another aspect of the population biology of penguins relates to the possible impact of commercial fishing, so this study will provide useful information to the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which is the part of the Antarctic Treaty System that focuses on fisheries management.

Field Season Overview:
This project is a continuing, long-term study of the breeding biology and demography of Adelie, chinstrap, and gentoo penguins on King George Island in the South Shetland group. Research is conducted annually from October through March at the Copacabana Field Station (Copa) on the west side of Admiralty Bay.

A 1998 Memorandum of Agreement defines the shared logistical support to be provided by NSF's Office of Polar Programs (OPP) and NOAA's Antarctic Marine Living Resources (AMLR). OPP supports the annual opening of the field camp and AMLR is responsible for its closing.

This season's opening is scheduled for mid-October when the R/V Laurence M. Gould (LMG) will transport four researchers and their supplies to the field station. Support contractor personnel will assist with the researchers in opening the facility, starting heat, power, and communications, and off-loading fuel, food, supplies and equipment. Zodiac inflatable boats operated by the RV LMG's marine technicians will transport personnel and cargo from ship to shore.