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

Project Title

Collaborative Research: Linking predator behavior and resource distributions: penguin-directed exploration of an ecological hotspot

Gentoo Penguin. Photo by Ethan Norris. Image courtesy of NSF/USAP Photo Library. Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
B-308-P Research Location(s): Palmer Station


Event Number:
NSF / OPP Award 1744885

Program Director:
Dr. Rebecca Gast

ASC POC/Implementer:
David Rivera / Jamee Johnson

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Mark Alan Moline
University of Delaware
College of Marine Studies


Supporting Stations: Palmer Station
Research Locations: Palmer Station


REMOVE FROM 2023-24 While it has long been known that penguins feed on krill, details about how they search for food and target individual prey items is less well understood. This project will use specialized Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) to simultaneously collect high-resolution observations of Adélie and Gentoo penguins, their prey, and environmental conditions. Data will shed light on strategies used by penguins to forage successfully during the critical summer chick-rearing period. This will improve predictions of how penguin populations may respond to changing environmental conditions in the rapidly warming Western Antarctic Peninsula region. Greater understanding of how individual behaviors shape food web structure can also inform conservation and management efforts in other marine ecosystems. This project has a robust public education and outreach plan linked with the Monterey Bay Aquariums.

Field Season Overview

Three participants will deploy to Palmer Station in austral summer. Operations will primarily include daily AUV missions to map salinity, temperature, currents, chlorophyll, light, and multi-frequency acoustic scattering, which will supplement tagging observations of penguin populations currently being observed by the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research (PAL-LTER) group as part of a collaborative effort. In addition to AUV missions, the science team will participate on net tow missions of prey targets (krill) from a rigid-hulled inflatable boat up to twice per week with the PAL-LTER field team for the purposes of validating AUV acoustic interpretation of krill and predators.

Deploying Team Members

  • Matthew Breece
  • Mark Moline (PI)
  • Erik White