Who conducts the research?
A team of 15-20 volunteers from Earthcare St Kilda monitor the colony every fortnight. Penguins are tagged with microchips so that they can be easily identified, they are weighed , sexed and checked for human-induced injuries such as entanglements. Pollution from inside their nest is also removed.
Why conduct research?
The primary aim is to ensure the population is healthy and not declining in size. Reproductive success is also monitored by recording chick survival, and penguin weights can provide information regarding the state of Port Phillip Bay. Comparisons can also be made between the section of the breakwater which is accessible to visitors and the section which is not. These comparisons can ensure appropriate management actions are taken in the public section.
Across 20 research surveys in 2019 we had a total of 2299 encounters including captured and unreachable penguins.
We caught 389 unique penguins with approximately a 1:1 ratio of males and females.
We microchipped 160 penguins in total. 70 of these were chicks, and 90 were adults.
310 penguins were only caught once in 2019 and no penguins were caught more than 5 times (see below)
Number of times caught
|Number of penguins|
Preliminary comparison between the restricted and public sections
We are now only monitoring half of the breakwater to reduce our impact on the colony. The public section of the breakwater takes up ~20% of the breakwater and is therefore 40% of our study area.
Of the microchipped chicks, 21 of these were in the public section and 49 were in the restricted section. Accounting for the proportion of the breakwater that the public section occupies, there were ~35% more chicks that reached microchipping age in the restricted section than in the public section.
Unfortunately, we were unable to record all data on polluted nests due to technical issues. However, in 2019 we recorded 22 polluted nests, with 50% of these in the public section.
We are currently working on a new estimate for population size (the current estimate is 1400 individuals), as well as conducting other analyses so stay tuned!
Photo: Doug Gimesy
Photo: Doug Gimesy