Project Information
Stable Isotope Analyses of Pygoscelid Penguin remains from Active and Abandoned Colonies in Antarctica
The research combines interdisciplinary study in geology, paleontology, and biology, using stable isotope and radiocarbon analyses, to examine how climate change and resource utilization have influenced population distribution, movement, and diet in penguins during the mid-to-late Holocene. Previous investigations have demonstrated that abandoned colonies contain well-preserved remains that can be used to examine differential responses of penguins to climate change in various sectors of Antarctica. As such, the research team will investigate abandoned and active pygoscelid penguin (Adelie, Chinstrap, and Gentoo) colonies in the Antarctic Peninsula and Ross Sea regions, and possibly Prydz Bay, in collaboration with Chinese scientists during four field seasons. Stable isotope analyses will be conducted on recovered penguin tissues and prey remains in guano to address hypotheses on penguin occupation history, population movement, and diet in relation to climate change since the late Pleistocene. The study will include one Ph.D., two Masters and 16 undergraduate students in advanced research over the project period. Students will be exposed to a variety of fields, the scientific method, and international scientific research. They will complete field and lab research for individual projects or Honor's theses for academic credit. The project also will include web-based outreach, lectures to middle school students, and the development of interactive exercises that highlight hypothesis-driven research and the ecology of Antarctica. Two undergraduate students in French and Spanish languages at UNCW will be hired to assist in translating the Web page postings for broader access to this information.
Person Role
Emslie, Steven Investigator
Polito, Michael Co-Investigator
Patterson, William Co-Investigator
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 0739575
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
1 (processed data)
  1. Polito, M. J., Trivelpiece, W. Z., Reiss, C. S., Trivelpiece, S. G., Hinke, J. T., Patterson, W. P., & Emslie, S. D. (2019). Intraspecific variation in a dominant prey species can bias marine predator dietary estimates derived from stable isotope analysis. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods, 17(4), 292-303. (doi:10.1002/lom3.10314)
  2. Emslie, S. D., McKenzie, A., Marti, L. J., & Santos, M. (2018). Recent occupation by Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) at Hope Bay and Seymour Island and the ‘northern enigma’in the Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Biology, 41(1), 71-77. (doi:10.1007/s00300-017-2170-8)
  3. Polito, M. J., Brasso, R. L., Trivelpiece, W. Z., Karnovsky, N., Patterson, W. P., & Emslie, S. D. (2016). Differing foraging strategies influence mercury (Hg) exposure in an Antarctic penguin community. Environmental Pollution, 218, 196–206. (doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2016.04.097)
  4. Iakovenko, N. S., Smykla, J., Convey, P., Kašparová, E., Kozeretska, I. A., Trokhymets, V., … Janko, K. (2015). Antarctic bdelloid rotifers: diversity, endemism and evolution. Hydrobiologia, 761(1), 5–43. (doi:10.1007/s10750-015-2463-2)
  5. Clucas, G. V., Younger, J. L., Kao, D., Emmerson, L., Southwell, C., Wienecke, B., … Hart, T. (2018). Comparative population genomics reveals key barriers to dispersal in Southern Ocean penguins. Molecular Ecology, 27(23), 4680–4697. (doi:10.1111/mec.14896)
  6. Nie, Y., Xu, L., Liu, X., & Emslie, S. D. (2016). Radionuclides in ornithogenic sediments as evidence for recent warming in the Ross Sea region, Antarctica. Science of The Total Environment, 557-558, 248–256. (doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.046)
  7. Yang, L., Sun, L., Emslie, S. D., Xie, Z., Huang, T., Gao, Y., … Wang, Y. (2018). Oceanographic mechanisms and penguin population increases during the Little Ice Age in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 481, 136–142. (doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2017.10.027)
  8. Herman, R. W., Valls, F. C. L., Hart, T., Petry, M. V., Trivelpiece, W. Z., & Polito, M. J. (2017). Seasonal consistency and individual variation in foraging strategies differ among and within Pygoscelis penguin species in the Antarctic Peninsula region. Marine Biology, 164(5). (doi:10.1007/s00227-017-3142-9)
  9. Chen, Q., Nie, Y., Liu, X., Xu, L., & Emslie, S. D. (2015). An 800-year ultraviolet radiation record inferred from sedimentary pigments in the Ross Sea area, East Antarctica. Boreas, 44(4), 693–705. (doi:10.1111/bor.12130)
  10. Nie, Y., Liu, X., Sun, L., & Emslie, S. D. (2012). Effect of penguin and seal excrement on mercury distribution in sediments from the Ross Sea region, East Antarctica. Science of The Total Environment, 433, 132–140. (doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.06.022)
  11. Emslie, S. D., Polito, M. J., Brasso, R., Patterson, W. P., & Sun, L. (2014). Ornithogenic soils and the paleoecology of pygoscelid penguins in Antarctica. Quaternary International, 352, 4–15. (doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2014.07.031)
  12. Nie, Y., Liu, X., Wen, T., Sun, L., & Emslie, S. D. (2014). Environmental implication of nitrogen isotopic composition in ornithogenic sediments from the Ross Sea region, East Antarctica: Δ15N as a new proxy for avian influence. Chemical Geology, 363, 91–100. (doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2013.10.031)
  13. Lou, C., Liu, X., Nie, Y., & Emslie, S. D. (2015). Fractionation distribution and preliminary ecological risk assessment of As, Hg and Cd in ornithogenic sediments from the Ross Sea region, East Antarctica. Science of The Total Environment, 538, 644–653. (doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.08.102)
  14. Smykla, J., Drewnik, M., Szarek-Gwiazda, E., Hii, Y. S., Knap, W., & Emslie, S. D. (2015). Variation in the characteristics and development of soils at Edmonson Point due to abiotic and biotic factors, northern Victoria Land, Antarctica. CATENA, 132, 56–67. (doi:10.1016/j.catena.2015.04.011)
  15. Lou, C., Liu, X., Liu, W., Wu, L., Nie, Y., & Emslie, S. D. (2016). Distribution patterns and possible influencing factors of As speciation in ornithogenic sediments from the Ross Sea region, East Antarctica. Science of The Total Environment, 553, 466–473. (doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.02.053)
Platforms and Instruments

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