University of Cape Town, South Africa
I am a MSc student at UCT's Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology, studying African Penguin thermoregulatory behavior. My work integrates controlled laboratory studies on behavior and physiology with field observations/measurements to better understand how breeding African penguins are dealing with rising temperatures and extreme weather events due to climate change.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the guano covering seabird colonies was scraped and removed. African Penguins, who previously nested in guano burrows, are now forced to breed in surface nests where they are exposed to extreme weather events and egg/chick predation. Previous studies indicate that the nesting penguins can be protected somewhat by artificial burrows or nest-covers. However, it is still unknown whether there is a structure that can provide sufficient protection in the face of climate change.
My overall goals are to understand how penguins deal with heat presently, model for the conditions they will be faced with in the future, and to find a solution which will protect breeding adults and their eggs/chicks to increase breeding success.
The results of my work will help to predict how African Penguin populations may be affected by future climate change, as well as to provide tools that will help management organizations to limit the impacts of climate change and predation in the future.