2020-2021 Science Planning Summaries
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2020-2021 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Does nest density matter? Using novel technology to collect whole-colony data on Adelie penguins

A curious Adélie penguin contemplates its options at Cape Crozier.
Photo by: Annie Schmidt
B-040-M Research Location(s): Cape Crozier and Cape Royds


Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Karla Heidelberg

ASC POC/Implementer:
Jenny Cunningham / Elizabeth Kauffman

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Grant Ballard
Point Reyes Bird Observatory
San Francisco, California


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Cape Crozier and Cape Royds


In the Ross Sea region, one of the largest Adelie penguin colonies in the world is growing quickly despite signs of negative density dependence. Building on a long-term biologging and demographic dataset, this team will integrate the role of environmental factors with information on penguin foraging behavior, diet, growth and survival at both Cape Crozier and Cape Royds. Data will be used to evaluate how early-life conditions and penguin behavior relate to penguin energetics and population size. Results from this study will enhance scientific understanding and conservation of sea ice ecosystems.

Field Season Overview

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic impacts, a reduced team of two participants will deploy in November and will stay at Cape Crozier from late November to late January to continue long-term monitoring of the penguin colony there. Monitoring activities will include identifying previously marked penguins, collecting data on breeding behavior, and banding new penguin chicks. Four to five day trips will be made by helicopter to Cape Royds conduct some monitoring activities in the colony there, and the team will fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to survey the colonies at both locations.

Deploying Team Members

  • Grant Ballard (PI)
  • Parker Levinson
  • Anne Schmidt