New techniques for counting penguins

The widespread monitoring of penguin populations around the Antarctic and on subantarctic islands is dependent on methods to determine annual population sizes (breeding pairs) accurately. Monitoring has typically relied on ground visits to colonies, and photographs of colonies, either oblique or aerial, from which birds were counted manually. These methods require considerable time and effort. Techniques that either increase the precision of individual counts or increase the number of counts for a given effort would improve our ability to identify statistically significant population changes. Scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division have developed customised software that can quickly determine the numbers of penguins in aerial photographs accurately. The software uses readily available hardware and is relatively cheap, both of which are prerequisites for its broad scale adoption and application.

Eric Woehler1, Roger Handsworth1, Henk Brolsma1, Martin Riddle1 and Keith Stove2

1. Human Impacts Research Program, Australian Antarctic Division
2. Hydro Tasmania