2023-2024 Science Planning Summary
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2023-2024 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Population growth at the southern extreme: Effects of early life conditions on Adélie penguin individuals and colonies

Adélie Penguins. Photo by Mika Lucibella, courtesy of the NSF/USAP Photo Library.
B-200-M Research Location(s): Cape Crozier, Cape Royds


Event Number:
NSF / OPP Award 1935870

Program Director:
Dr. Rebecca Gast

ASC POC/Implementer:
Ryan Steiner / Jenny Cunningham

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Grant Ballard
Point Reyes Bird Observatory

Project Web Site:


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


In the Ross Sea region, one of the largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world is growing quickly, despite signs of negative density dependence. Building on a long-term biologging and demographic datasets, this team will integrate the role of environmental factors with information on penguin foraging behavior, diet, growth, and survival at 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 the scientific understanding of important penguin and prey populations and provide information that will feed into the conservation of sea-ice ecosystems. The team will also lead a diverse training and public outreach program.

Field Season Overview

Six participants will deploy for a limited season to continue their long-term study of Adélie penguin demographics and population response to environmental change in the Ross Sea. Four team members will work out of the fixed hut at Cape Crozier, and two will work out of a tent camp at Cape Royds. The team will identify marked penguins at each location, collect breeding behavior data, and recover loggers that were deployed on penguins in previous seasons. They will also conduct UAS surveys at Cape Crozier, Cape Royds, and Cape Bird.

Deploying Team Members

  • Grant Ballard (PI)
  • Christina Burnham
  • Jean Pennycook (Team Leader)
  • Anne Schmidt (Co-PI)
  • Nadia Swanson
  • Suzanne Winquist