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An international research team has developed a simple method for using a network of autonomous time-lapse cameras to track the breeding and population dynamics of Antarctic penguins, providing a new, low-cost window into the health and productivity of the Antarctic ecosystem.
The team of scientists from NOAA Fisheries and several other nations published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, descriptions of the camera system and a new method for turning static images into useful data on the timing and success of penguin reproduction. They say that the system monitors penguins as effectively as scientists could in person, for a fraction of the cost.
Network - Cameras - Antarctic - Peninsula - South
The network includes 51 cameras across the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands, set on posts several feet above ground and programmed to shoot 12 photos a day during daylight hours. Researchers typically visit once or twice a year to download photos and replace camera batteries. Funding for the project came from the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
"These cameras provide an opportunity to put more eyes on the ground to understand broad-scale responses to changes in the environment," said Jefferson Hinke, a research biologist at NOAA Fisheries' Southwest Fisheries Science Center and lead author of the new paper. "It helps us understand what's happening to these animals in a way that's affordable, robust, and accurate."
Network - Species - Antarctic - Penguins - Gentoo
The network was designed to monitor three species of Antarctic penguins: gentoo, Adélie, and chinstrap. For each species, stereotypical behaviors in the nest are the key to turning images into useful data. While two penguins typically tend to their nests before they lay eggs, once they have eggs just one penguin stays on the nest. By watching for such telltale signs, biologists...
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