ASI Season Update

The 25th anniversary season of the Antarctic Site Inventory was successful and is now history. We are busy toting up our counts with data ultimately to be logged into our continent-wide MAPPPD database. We continue to be the only project monitoring penguin populations throughout the Antarctic Peninsula and many thanks to all our counters for their diligence and hard work.

It happened to be a brutal year for gentoo penguins in the central Gerlache Strait. NOV/DEC nest set-up was plagued by an inordinate amount of snowfall, with tall drifts lingering through mid-January. We had a shockingly low gentoo chick count at Danco Island on JAN 20. Many of the gentoos were seemingly trying to relay, but close inspection found that, while many were in brood position, there were no eggs or only one egg underneath. And of course, even if these eggs hatched, chick survival would be unlikely this late in the season.

By contrast, south in Marguerite Bay, particularly at Red Rock Ridge and Lagotellerie Island, we reaffirmed our conclusion five years ago of a ‘productivity dividing line’ in northern Marguerite Bay, south of which Adélie penguins are thriving, in contrast to the northern Peninsula where they aren’t. Once we get into our more detailed climate analyses, I’m keen to understand why this is so.

As well, my colleague Grant Humphries and I had the good fortune of working with a film crew from the US-based Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) NewsHour — and I’m pleased that, later this month, the NewsHour will be broadcasting a special 4-part Antarctic series featuring segments on Oceanites, penguins, and the Antarctic Site Inventory; climate change; the Antarctic Treaty; and tourism. We’ll keep you posted on broadcast dates.

. . . Ron Naveen