Studying penguins is tricky, at best, due to their remote and hostile habitat – the antarctic. This challenge is being made easier by satellite imagery.

Emperor Penguin Colony
An Emperor Penguin Colony – image by QuickBird satellite (©2018 Digiitalglobe, inc.)

 

The picture above shows a colony of Emperor Penguins. The dark penguins, their shadows, and their…poop…all stand out against the white background of the snow.

In the second picture below the dark shapes of individual penguins can be seen, the dark smudge color is their excrement/poop/faeces/select your preferred term. 

In 2018 a supercolony of 1.5 million penguins was found by satellite images. The penguin poop was detected by the satellite data and then drones sent to the location to get more detailed information. The drones provide a highly accurate count of 751,527 pairs of penguins. 

This colony was found on the wonderfully named “Danger Island”  – on the Antarctic Peninsula. 

The study of penguins is important not just for understanding penguins, but also to monitor the impact of climate change. As penguins are dependant on a very particular climate understanding their changing behaviors helps understand more about the changing climate. Phil Trathan, the head of conservation biology at BAS said: “Birds in these sites are therefore probably the ‘canaries in the coal mine’ — we need to watch these sites carefully as climate change will affect this region.”

 

Emperor Penguin Colony Focused
An Emperor Penguin Colony – image by QuickBird satellite (©2018 Digiitalglobe, inc.)