2022-2023 Science Planning Summary
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2022-2023 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

NSFGEO-NERC Collaborative Research: P2P: Predators to Plankton – Biophysical controls in Antarctic polynyas

Adélie Penguin. Photo by Mike Lucibella, courtesy of the NSF/USAP Photo Library.
B-031-M/N Research Location(s): Cape Royds, Cape Crozier


Event Number:

Program Director:
Dr. Maria Vernet

ASC POC/Implementer:
David Rivera / Jenny Cunningham

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. David Ainley
H.T. Harvey & Associates


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station, RV/IB Nathaniel B. Palmer
Research Locations: Cape Royds, Cape Crozier


To better understand food web dynamics and structure of a Southern Ocean trophic hotspot, and to resolve a penguin population growth paradox, where expansion of colonies coincides with chicks fledging underweight, the PIs will combine: 1) deployment of acoustically-equipped gliders in a dense grid to assess size, location and density of prey, both inside and outside of intense penguin foraging areas; 2) quantify preyscape related biophysics using glider sensors (mixed-layer depth, stratification, irradiance, chlorophyll and particulate matter concentrations); 3) penguin biologging to quantify foraging area overlap and behavior as affected by preyscape and oceanographic characteristics; 4) penguin diet by direct and DNA/stable isotope analysis; and 5) quantification of abundance and spatial distribution of competing whales and seals, using satellite imagery. This study will improve the understanding of top-down and bottom-up processes in the Ross Sea Polynya marginal ice zone, providing important information for management of the Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area.

Field Season Overview

Three participants will launch three gliders from the fast ice at Cape Crozier in November. The gliders will sample for at least two months in the Ross Sea polynya while being guided remotely, then will be retrieved in late January/early February by participants aboard the RV/IB Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel. Meanwhile, two participants will deploy in early December and will embed with Ballard (B-200-M) at Cape Crozier and Cape Royds to assist with Adélie penguin biologging and monitoring activities through mid- to late January.

Deploying Team Members

  • David Ainley (PI)
  • Vernon Asper
  • Aidan Cox
  • Gillian Damerell
  • Meredith Meyer
  • Walker Smith (Co-PI)