Research Mission

Meet the team behind Project CONVERGE.

Interested in learning about the background science of this research mission?…

MapofWAPBackground Information on Mission: The breeding and foraging ranges of Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) along the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) varies widely but is spatially correlated with submarine canyons and nearshore deep bathymetry. One of these penguin “hotspots” occurs near Palmer Station, Anvers Island, which has been occupied by Adélie penguins for nearly 1000 years (See Map). The submarine canyon in this region (Palmer Deep) is a spot for upwelling of relatively warm, Upper Circumpolar Deep Water (UCDW).  UCDW is thought to enhance local primary production and support a food web productive enough to sustain a large top predator biomass. The flow of the UCDW, however, is not the only important property of water that may be affecting primary production and the spatial distribution of marine animals.

Recently scientists have shown that flows formed by tides may be key drivers of nearshore predator distributions. Many scientists have observed an interaction between tidal flows and bathymetry which can have large effects on marine ecosystem properties, such as affecting phytoplankton production, zooplankton aggregations, as well as benthic grazers, avian, and marine mammal foraging behavior in response to these tidally-driven prey concentrations. However, this is a new observation for the Anvers Island region and is the focus question in this research mission.

Mission Hypothesis: We are therefore hypothesizing that tidal forcing leads to local and predictable convergent zones that may be playing a similar role in the Palmer Deep region.

Mission Approach: We are using a multi-platform field study to investigate the impact of local physical processes on Adélie penguin foraging ecology in the vicinity of Palmer Deep off Anvers Island. That means we are combining remotely sensed surface current maps, an in-water (sub-surface) mooring, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), small boat acoustic surveys, and satellite telemetry of the Adélie penguin to collect data to answer our questions. The data will help us determine the distribution of the phytoplankton and zooplankton which influence Adélie penguin foraging ecology to understand how local flows structure the ecosystem.