Foraging Ecology of Emperor Penguins at the Snow Hill Colony

The Foundation for Antarctic Research, Inc.

Sandra Birnhak is Director of the Foundation for Antarctic Research, Inc. and Out of Antarctica, Inc. Since her retirement from the film industry, Sandra has been channeling her considerable energy into raising funds for scientific research projects in Antarctica. One of the them will be studying the foraging ecology of Emperor Penguins at the Snow Hill Island rookery. The Snow Hill rookery is the northern-most Emperor Penguin rookery in Antarctica. The rookery is adjacent to an expanding krill fishery and in a region of the world that is fast becoming affected by global warming.

The Study

This study, led by Graham Robertson of the Australian Antarctic Division. will seek to understand those factors that affect the survival of fledgling Emperors on their maiden excursion from the rookery, and factors that affect the survival of adult Emperor Penguins during the pre-molt and post-molt fattening phases of the annual cycle. These events occur in the Antarctic summer, when the ecology of Emperor Penguins is poorly understood. During the first of the two crucial adult fattening phases adult Emperors must double their body weight in order to endure the three-week molt (when the birds are unable to feed) and grow a full coat of new plumage. During the second phase adults must double their body weight a second time, peaking at about 90 lbs. to survive the upcoming four month winter fast. Any human-induced changes to the pack-ice environment affecting the birds’ capacity to fatten normally could affect the survival of the Emperors at Snow Hill.

Collaboration is Essential

This study will be conducted jointly by the Instituto Antarctico, Argentina, the Universidad de la Plata, Argentina and the Australian Antarctic Division. In addition the project will require financial support from people and organizations concerned about the protection of Emperor Penguins and their breeding sites.

To learn how you can help, phone 1+212-247-8464.