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

Project Title

CAREER: Foraging ecology and physiology of Emperor penguins in the Ross Sea

Emperor penguin feeding its chick in a snow storm. Photograph by Birgitte McDonald
B-245-M/N Research Location(s): Cape Crozier, Eastern Ross Sea


Event Number:
NSF / OPP Award 1943550

Program Director:
Dr. William Ambrose

ASC POC/Implementer:
David Rivera / Jamee Johnson / Randolph Jones

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Birgitte I McDonald
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories


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


Survival of Emperor penguins depends on their ability to effectively locate patchy prey resources. Changes in prey resources can permeate through the food web and modify penguin foraging behavior, and ultimately survival and reproduction. This project will address fundamental information gaps about the foraging ecology and habitat use of Emperor penguins during critical periods of their life history using a combination of technological and analytical tools. Specifically, we will: 1) Investigate the inter- and intra-individual behavioral variability exhibited by Emperor penguins during the three-month post-molt and early winter foraging trips, and 2) Integrate penguin behavioral data with environmental data to identify which environmental features are indicative of habitat preference when not constrained to returning to the colony to feed a chick.

Field Season Overview

Scott Base Antarctica New Zealand (ANZ)/Cape Crozier In collaboration with researchers from the ANZ program, three participants will deploy to a Cape Crozier field camp to study foraging ecology and habitat use of Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) during late chick rearing. Penguins will be weighed, morphometrics collected, sampled (feather), and instrumented with data loggers. ANZ will provide helicopter support and all camping and safety gear to support this portion of fieldwork.

RV/IB Nathaniel B. Palmer Four team members will deploy to McMurdo Station to participate in a cruise to the Eastern Ross Sea (ERS). They have been allocated 10 days in the ERS/north of Marie Byrd Land to deploy data loggers and collect samples on 44 adult Emperor penguins. Additionally, they will conduct net tows in regions where penguins forage to obtain samples of potential prey. Foraging locations will be identified using the locations obtained from the satellite instrumented penguins.

Deploying Team Members

  • Taylor Azizeh
  • Parker Forman
  • Caitlin Kroeger
  • Birgitte McDonald (PI)
  • Sarah Peterson