OPP-PRF Pygoscelis Penguin Response to Potential Prey Retention along the West Antarctic Peninsula
Pygoscelis penguins are central place foragers during the summer while they raise their chicks. They leave and return to the same colony location after hunting for food and rely on the availability of Antarctic krill, their primary food source. This research focuses on whether penguin diets and colony location reflect the retention of prey around and near colonies on the West Antarctic Peninsula. Eddies and other oceanographic processes may facilitate prey retention at certain locations, driving penguin colony establishment and success. This project hypothesizes that Pygoscelis penguin diets will be composed of more Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) when local prey retention is high, possibly due to subsurface eddies. This hypothesis will be tested using satellite-based estimates of Pygoscelis penguin diet composition using multispectral sensor data to estimate nitrogen values and infer trophic level. Prey retention will be calculated along the peninsula using the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS). Simulated particles and diel vertical migration will be used to mimic krill behavior. These particles can be experimentally seeded across multiple depths in multiple years to assess residence times in the system. Using penguin colony data from the Mapping Application for Penguin Populations and Projected Dynamics (MAPPPD), the PI will correlate diet and retention metrics to local penguin colony growth and persistence and build a predictive model of where colonies may form in the future. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
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