Certificate requests may be slower than usual as the team is currently in the field, with very little internet access. We appreciate your patience as we work our way through requests. We will return to the office at the end of June.

Certificate requests may be slower than usual as the team is currently in the field, with very little internet access. We appreciate your patience as we work our way through requests. We will return to the office at the end of June.


Special project workflows

Rockhopper fiesta or penguin monitoring in Argentina

We have been deploying, since 2013, time-lapse cameras to overlook two Rockhopper penguin colonies on Isla de los Estados, in the Southern tip of Argentina, specifically in Franklin Bay and San Juan de Salvamento Bay. Southern rockhopper penguins are classified as Vulnerable under the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This list is managed by researchers and tells us how likely a species is to disappear from the planet or if it has already. With our rockhopper project, we aim to study the breeding behaviours of Southern rockhopper penguins in the context of climate change to better inform conservation management strategies.

Like with the Penguin Watch Time-lapse workflow, we need you to help us count adult penguins, chicks, and eggs to understand when they are at the colony, how many are there and how successful they are at raising their chicks. We also need you to help us identify other individuals (like predator birds) in the images to learn more about their behaviour and interactions with the penguins. As the colonies we are studying are already declining, they are at higher risk of predation (when another animal attacks an individual to eat it). For example, the colonies on Isla de los Estados also harbour a population of about 300 Striated caracaras. They feed on seabird young and eggs like rockhoppers. As a declining colony breaks into smaller breeding groups (or sub-colonies), predators like caracaras may be more successful at catching penguins thus putting further pressure on their colony.

Striated caracaras are the southernmost bird of prey. While closely related to falcons, they have unusual nesting habits. They nest in tussock grassland (thick and tall tufts of grasses) and feed at all stages of their life on seabird eggs, chicks, and sometimes even adults. We are therefore expecting to see them near the edges of seabird colonies, especially of rockhopper penguins and black-browed albatrosses.

Penguin foraging

From Penguin Watch: We are trying to automate the cameras we call "Foraging cameras". These are cameras set to shoot at 1-minute intervals in order to capture short behavioural events like parents feeding chicks or changeovers during incubation. Our dataset for foraging images is huge and uploading it all here would be very difficult (and possibly very boring). For that reason, we are uploading only one 24hr period for each of our cameras (Some old ones too as we have been prioritising normal time-lapse monitoring over this particular type of study). Getting this data from volunteers will be of great help to assess the reliability of our Artificial Intelligence algorithm and help refine it in different conditions (day and night) and for the different species of study (Gentoos, Adélies and Chinstraps). If you see two images that are quite alike, they will likely be two different images just a few minutes apart. Please mark as usual or refresh for a chance of an image of a different colony. We are uploading cameras from all colonies at the same time to make this task more varied and provide a better experience for our volunteers. In the coming week(s) we will also be uploading some new footage from cameras we haven't managed to reach this season and that our collaborators have just sent us!

Threats to Antarctic species

Antarctica is the world’s highest, driest, coldest and windiest continent (with the least number of traffic wardens) and is home to a range of exceptional species. However, there is growing concern over this unique ecosystem, and the risks it faces from climate change, fisheries and direct human disturbance. Over the latter part of the twentieth century, the Antarctic Peninsula has been amongst the most rapidly warming parts of our planet and this is causing significant reductions in sea ice and the collapse of ice shelves. This has important consequences for species living in these areas and for the management of local fisheries. Penguins are used by scientists as indicators of change within their ecosystem because, as easy to monitor species, any change in their breeding performance, or population size and distribution are likely to reflect changes to species lower down the food chain, or in the Antarctic environment as a whole. Therefore, monitoring these species will provide valuable insight into the large-scale changes occurring.

Antarctic krill is the focus of a fishery that operates in the Southern Ocean and, following regional decreases in sea ice extent and duration, is now increasingly operating during the summer months at a time when krill-eating predators, such as penguins, are breeding. A key issue, therefore, is how to manage krill fisheries so that they do not cause irreversible impacts on krill-eating predators like penguins. In order to do this, we need to closely monitor penguin populations, particularly those using areas that overlap with the fisheries. However, many of these colonies are challenging to access and have only been visited once or twice. We, therefore, must make use of remote techniques such as analysis of aerial photography to monitor these penguin colonies and to measure any population change that might have occurred.

How can we help?

Because seabirds spend the majority of their life at sea and feed near the top of the food chain, changes in their populations are likely to reflect the changes occurring in the wider ecosystem, making them excellent indicators of the health of the marine environment. As such, many seabirds, are also considered a sentinel of change. A sentinel species is an organism, in this case seabirds, that we can use to detect early warning of risks to key ecosystems and by extension to humans.
Seabirds are declining worldwide; under threat from climate change, pollution, disturbance and competition with fisheries. We want to monitor, understand and protect these species, but we have lacked the ability to collect data on a large enough scale. It matters because we know that seabirds, such as an Adélie penguin, show very different trends in their populations between East and West Antarctica, where they may be experiencing different environmental conditions and threats.

Penguin Watch aims to understand these threats and to reverse them through informing policy changes where we can.

Quite simply, we do this through a LOT more data. We have spent the last 10 years putting out cameras, around Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, to monitor their annual breeding and reproductive success. We also use drones to count colonies and we pick up poo and feathers to monitor disease, diet and stress.

Spot the location of your favourite Penguin Watch images on our interactive camera map

The "i"nfo button below each image you are marking will give you the name of the camera (see the capital letters at the beginning of the image name, for example BOOT or NEKO). Then click on the same code in the interactive map list to find the location of the image you are looking at (note that the map has multiple tabs so change the tab if you cannot find the code in the first tab).

Key research aims

Ultimately, we believe that our research will feed directly into policy as we build evidence to determine important regions for penguins and highlight specific colonies of concern. There is growing support for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, which would help protect penguins by managing human activities. Images taken throughout the year at multiple locations provide the ability to answer a range of interesting questions. Specifically, we aim to:

  1. Determine chick survival and breeding success, and how this varies across species ranges and between years
  2. Identify the causes of chick mortality (e.g. predation in the colony versus parents abandoning chicks)
  3. Record changes in the timing of breeding (e.g. arrival date, fledging date) and how this is affected by environmental conditions

We also depend on generous donations to run our research and expedition. You can also help us by donating or fundraising,


Our field work is:

Penguin Watch project voluntarily complies with the British Standard BS 8848: Specification for the provision of visits, fieldwork, expeditions and adventurous activities outside the United Kingdom.
We were honoured to win, in 2019, the BSI Standards Users Award for "Trust" which recognises the use of voluntary standards to increase trust from clients and suppliers (details here).