Long term studies of the impacts of human disturbance on adelie penguins using a range of key behavioural, ecological and physiological measures are required to establish logical management regimes as ecotourism in Antarctica increases. This study examined changes in a wide range of behavioural (e.g. alarm, aggressive and sexual behaviour), ecological (e.g. the timing and synchrony of key events ... like egg-laying and the consequences of these changes, reproductive success) and physiological responses (e.g. levels of curculating stress and reproductive hormones) over the course of the entire breeding cycles and across three breeding seasons (03-04, 04-05, 05-06) to determine the effects of human disturbance (tourism and scientific activity) on adelie penguins. 16 sub colonies were established at Cape Bird and Cape Crozier with 20 nests per treatment colony exposed to four different levels of disturbance (none, low, moderate and high). There were two types of disturbances, recreational (tourists walking around taking pictures) and research (flipper banding and blood sampling). Behavioural observations were recorded at each stage of the breeding season (courtship, incubation, guard, post-guard and creche stages). Blood and faecal samples (a non-invasive method) were collected for stress hormone levels from males and females at all stages of the breeding cycle. Blood samples were also collected for DNA analysis to examine within and across colony relatedness. All birds sampled for blood were banded and return rates of banded birds to each colony was recorded. The initiation and synchrony of egg-laying, hatching and crech development was recorded and compared between treatments over several breeding seasons.
Ninnes, C.E., Waas, J.R., Ling, N., Nakagawa, S., Banks, J.C., Bell, D.G., Bright, A., Carey, P.W., Chandler, J., Hudson, Q.J., Ingram, J.R., Lyall, K., Morgan, D.K.J., Stevens, M.I., Wallace, J., Möstl, E. 2009. Comparing plasma and faecal measures of steroid hormones in Adelie penguins Pygoscelis adeliae. Journal of comparative physiology B 2009. doi: 10.1007/s00360-009-0390-0
Nakagawa, S. Möstl, E. Waas, J.R. Validation of an enzyme immunoassay to measure faecal glucocorticoid metabolites from Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae): a non-invasive tool for estimating stress? Polar biology 26: 491-493, 2003.