2012-2013 Science Planning Summaries
U.S. Antarctic Program - Science Support Section United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
Pre- and post-molt biology of emperor penguins

Program Manager:
Dr. Diana Nemergut


ASC POC/Implementer:
Addie Coyac / Robert Kluckhohn

Dr. Gerald Kooyman (Principal Investigator)

Scripps Institution of Oceanography
CMBB 0204
La Jolla, California

Supporting Stations:  RV/IB Nathaniel B. Palmer
Research Locations:  Amundsen Sea

Project Description:
The emperor penguin dives deeper and longer, fasts longer, and endures the harshest weather conditions of all diving birds. It spends about four and half months per annum deep in Antarctic pack ice away from shore and stations, and thus is largely unavailable for study. This time includes preparation for the molt, and travel to the colony to breed, a time period in which great swings in body weight occur. This study will fill an important gap in what we know about the biology of the annual cycle of the emperor by examining the post-molt period. Project objectives are to (1) Place satellite tags on 20 adult post molt birds to determine their route, rate of travel, and diving behavior as they return back to their breeding colonies; (2) Obtain an index of body condition; (3) Collect guano to determine the type of food consumed by emperor penguins in the region; and (4) Conduct shipboard surveys to sight and plot the location and abundance of adult and juvenile birds on the ship's track.

Field Season Overview:
During the NBP's trans-pacific passage from McMurdo Station to Punta Arenas, Chile, three days will be dedicated to this project. Four participants will find post-molt birds nesting on the pack ice or fast ice and attach transmitters. After transmitter attachment other birds in the neighborhood will be weighed and their state of molt determined. Team members will collect guano samples for shipboard labwork to determine food types. During the transit a 24 hour watched maintained by the field team on the bridge or other appropriate observation area. Observers will evaluate and record guano color and count birds and mammals resting on the ice. In the case of birds, using high powered binoculars will make it possible to assess the age of the birds from adult, juvenile or fledgling. These counts will enable researchers to estimate the density of birds in the region.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Geoffrey Gearheart
  • Kim Goetz
  • Nigella Hillgarth
  • Gerald Kooyman (PI)

Return to Science Planning Summary Indexes Return to top of page Print this Page

Project Indexes
Find information about current USAP projects using the principal investigator, event number station, and other indexes.
Project Search
Looking for a particular project? Search by project title, or project team member here.
2012-2013 Field Season other information: Station Schedules Air Operations Staffed Field Camps Event Numbering System
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google Plus Share This Site on Pinterest Subscribe to USAP RSS Feeds Share Via Email
Curator: Esther L. Hill PhD, Antarctic Support Contract   |   NSF Official: Alexandra Isern, Office of Polar Programs