Cooperative Research Units
Education, Research And Technical Assistance For Managing Our Natural Resources
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Adélie penguin response to climate change at the individual, colony and metapopulation levels.


September 2002 - April 2020


This long-term study began in 1996 and seeks to understand the population dynamics of the Adélie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), in a 3-colony metapopulation on Ross Island, Antarctica. This coastal, polar, colony-nesting, top-trophic species provides an excellent opportunity to study the effects of habitat change and environmental variation on vital rates and ultimately population size, within a metapopulation framework. Multiple co-PI’s from three different countries are involved in this project and we now have an extensive amount of foraging, breeding and survival information on marked, known-age individuals at all three study colonies. With these data we can estimate population-level vital rates that produce population change, and understand the ecological factors that affect these vital rates. While changes in populations are typically studied in response to climate or habitat change, the process actually involves responses at the individual level, as each copes with an altered environment. The goal of our current funding effort is to understand how variation in behavior and vital rates among individuals within a population, affects population-level vital rates and ultimately changes in population size and overall metapopulation dynamics.

Research Products and Activities

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Ainley, DG, G Ballard, BJ Karl, and KM Dugger. 2005. Leopard seal predation rates at penguin colonies of different size. Antarctic Science 17:335-340. Publisher Website | 
  • Ainley, DG, G. Ballard, and KM Dugger. 2006. Competition among penguins and cetaceans reveals trophic cascades in the Western Ross Sea, Antarctica. Ecology 87:2080-2093.
  • Dugger, KM, G Ballard, DG Ainley, and K Barton. 2006. Effects of flipper-bands on apparent survival and foraging behavior of Adélie penguins. The Auk 123:858-869.
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  • Jennings, S. 2015. Provisioning, growth and survival of Adelie penguin chicks at Cape Crozier, Ross Island, Antarctica. M.S. thesis, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, 116pp.


  • Dugger, KM, G Ballard, DG Ainley, and KJ Barton. 2004. Effect of flipper-bands on the foraging behavior and survival of Adélie penguins on Ross Island. 5th International Penguin Conference, Ushuaia, Argentina, September 6-10, 2004.
  • Ainley, DG, G Ballard, KM Dugger, and BL Saenz. 2005. Adélie penguin population structure and abrupt environmental change in the Ross Sea. 3rd International Conference on the Oceanography of the Ross Sea Antarctica, Venice Italy, October 10-14, 2005.
  • Dugger, KM, G. Ballard, DG Ainley, and KJ Barton. 2006. Effect of flipper-bands on the foraging behavior and survival of Adélie penguins on Ross Island. Oregon Chapter of The Wildlife Society Conference, Agate Beach, OR, February 2006.
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Current Staff

Federal Staff: 95

Masters Students: 238

Phd Students: 144

Post Docs: 54

University Staff: 239

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 673

Scientific Publications: 1905

Presentations: 4236



Funding Agencies

  • Office of Polar Programs
  • subcontracted through H.T. Harvey & Associates


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey