|The Adelie Penguin is one of the most studied wild vertebrates on the planet, largely because the Antarctic pack-ice ecosystem it occupies is relatively simple and undisturbed, meaning that many general ecological questions can be answered more readily through observing Adelies than most other animals. PRBO has been contributing to this storehouse of knowledge since 1971, mostly through the extensive efforts of Dr. David Ainley and with support from the National Science Foundation. In the most recent phase of our work, we have focused on the geographic structuring of populations. We also study the effects of variability in sea ice concentration and extent--related to climate change. More information about this work is available at www.penguinscience.com.|
--Grant Ballard, PRBO staff biologist and co-principal investigator, Adelie Penguin project
On most days, when the sun prevails over the wind, I walk through a colony of 270,000 breeding Adelie penguins, looking for flipper bands. Since 1994, thousands of these birds from four colonies around Ross Island have been banded with uniquely coded bands that can be read using binoculars. The extent to which individuals move between geographically separate colonies-and overlap at feeding areas-is largely unknown and a question our research group hopes to answer. Just the other day we identified a bird here at Cape Crozier that was banded four years ago on the other side of the island, 140 km away as the penguin swims. Most Adelie penguins prefer to return to the place where they hatched, so we are excited about our encounter with a newcomer.
|Carina Gjerdrum at work on a storm-free day.|
Before this storm settled in, we followed the trail of penguins through that city of ice to a place where I learned the difference between a penguin on land and one in water. We watched as their fat yet perfectly hydrodynamic bodies broke through the water's surface again and again-penguins porpoising together towards the edge of the ice. With one last powerful pull of their flippers, they propelled themselves upwards into the air, landing abruptly not far from where we stood. Without a backward glance, they waddled awkwardly on short legs directly to the chaotic colony, bellies full.