Dr Colin Southwell — vertebrate ecologist

Scientists of the Antarctic: Dr Colin Southwell

Video transcript

I’m a vertebrate ecologist, working in the seabird research group.

One of the species we’ve spent most of our time working on is the Adélie penguin.

Adélie penguins are really entertaining in terms of their personality. There’s always something going on. The colonies are always incredibly busy. There are fights going on, there’s lots of action.

Recently we’ve expanded our interest to some of the other seabird species — the flying seabird species, such as snow petrels, fulmars, Antarctic petrels, cape petrels.

We’re studying these seabirds so we can provide scientific information to inform policies and management actions for conserving not just the seabirds themselves, but the ocean and the land environments that they feed and breed in.

We send down a team every year to carry out a long-term monitoring program. Effectively we cover about 4000 kilometres of coastline.

So we might fly over in an aircraft and take photos, and count from photos. We might visit the sites on the ground and count directly there, or use photographs.

We’ve designed cameras that can operate remotely in the really harsh conditions of Antarctica. We’ve got them out right now across probably about 40 sites in East Antarctica, and the concept has been adopted by researchers in other areas of Antarctica. So right now there’s a network of probably over 200 cameras operating around Antarctica, giving us a circumpolar observation of what’s going on.

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Dr Colin Southwell: BSc (Hons), PhD

Research interests

I have been working with the Australian Antarctic Division since 1994. My primary research interests lie in providing scientific input to sustainable management of populations and ecosystems; the development of cost-effective methods for large-scale monitoring of wildlife populations; and the development of optimal and effective designs for the detection of and attribution of cause to long-term change in the Southern Ocean ecosystem. I currently lead a research program that contributes to the CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program (CEMP) and to the assessment of seabird status and trends across East Antarctica. I have been a member of the Australian delegation to the CCAMLR Working Group on Ecosystem Monitoring and Management since 2002.

From 1994 to 2000 I led the Australian Antarctic Division’s contribution to the international Antarctic Pack Ice Seals program, which culminated in a circumpolar survey of pack-ice seal distribution and abundance. I was a member of the SCAR Group of Specialists on Seals from 1996 to 2004, and am currently a member of the IUCN Pinniped Specialist Group. Prior to joining the Australian Antarctic Division, I worked with the Federal Environment Department on management of harvested kangaroo species across Australia.

Current projects

International representations/collaborations

Key outcome areas

Related links


See Dr Southwell’s publications on ResearchGate.