Robot under emperor penguin colony Antarctica tracks climate change

Thousands of emperor penguins waddling around Antarctica have a stalker: a yellow rover that follows their every move.

ECHO is a remote-controlled ground robot that quietly spies on the emperor penguin colony in Atka Bay. The robot is monitored by the Single Penguin Observation and Tracking observatory. Both the SPOT observatory, which is also remotely controlled via satellite link, and the ECHO robot take pictures and videos of the Arctic animal population.

The research is part of the Marine Animal Remote Sensing Lab (MARE), designed to measure the health of the Antarctic marine ecosystem.

The project, funded by the independent non-profit Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, focuses on the place of emperor penguins in the food chain. In Antarctica, the food chain is relatively small and any change to a species lower in the food chain could affect the health of the emperor penguin (a predator). The team hopes to learn more about the impact of climate change on the animals living in Antarctica.

All aboard for Antarctica:See penguins, whales, seals and icebergs on a cruise

Checking facts:Warming varies by oceans and atmosphere, does not contradict climate change

Little is known about emperor penguins, largely because of the challenge for scientists to study them in Antarctica, lead scientist Daniel Zitterbart told USA TODAY.

ECHO serves as a very slow-moving, battery-powered robot capable of capturing the tag of any penguin through its antennae. According to Zitterbart, it has been recording data for eight weeks so far.

An illustration of the remote-controlled ground robot, ECHO.

“It would just drive around Antarctica knowing where the penguins are and very slowly try to scan individual penguins or groups of penguins. That’s how we know where penguins are,” Zitterbart said.

By tracking the penguins, scientists can study penguins’ behavior over time and see how they adapt.

penguins:Their poop is seen from space – lots of it – revealing hidden colonies

Since 2017, researchers at MARE have tagged 300 penguin chicks per year. They have now tagged more than 1,000 penguins and the colony consists of 26,000 penguins, according to Zitterbart.

The sun sets at the Atka Bay emperor penguin colony during a snowstorm in Antarctica.
ECHO-Rover travels slowly back from the emperor penguin colony of Atka Bay in the land of Dronning Maud, Antarctica.

MARE plans to monitor the penguins for the next 30 years, with the first set of data to be completed in 2026. The data will be analyzed to help determine the Arctic’s overall health and how the penguins are adapting.

Leave a Comment