Do Magellanic Penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) in the Pacific Migrate?EPA Grant Number: FP916399
Title: Do Magellanic Penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) in the Pacific Migrate?
Investigators: Skewes, Elizabeth A.
Institution: University of Washington
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2006
Project Amount: $106,288
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2004) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Zoology , Academic Fellowships , Biology/Life Sciences
The objective of this research project is to use satellite telemetry to track the locations of Magellanic penguins from colonies on the coast of Chile for 3 years during the austral winter. Migration plays a critical role in the persistence of many species facing variable environmental conditions, enabling organisms to find adequate food or space to reproduce. Of the 17 species of penguins, 11 migrate during the austral winter between breeding seasons, but 6 species remain near breeding colonies year round. Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) nest in colonies along both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of South America. Those that nest on the Atlantic coast display both differential and partial migrations (as far as 2,000 km), but patterns of ocean use during this important life history stage in their Pacific counterparts are unknown.
Remote sensing data, such as sea surface temperature and chlorophyll a abundance, and other oceanographic statistics such as fish landings, will be correlated with ocean use by the penguins. The birds are expected not to migrate in highly productive areas, to migrate towards regions of high productivity from areas of low productivity, and to migrate less than Magellanic penguins in the Atlantic. The birds also are expected to change migration patterns during years of climatic anomaly such as during an El Niño event. In addition to contributing to an understanding of migration as a life history trait that promotes winter survival in a variable ecological landscape, the results of this study will be useful for conservation. Penguins, as migratory predators, serve as indicators of ecosystem changes in lower trophic levels that are difficult to observe directly, and penguin ocean use can be compared to human ocean use to determine areas of likely conflict. This information can assist in science-based decision making in fisheries management and other ocean use.