Beachcombers and bird lovers are invited to walk the beach in the name of penguin science.
A new research project, led by The University of Western Australia, is seeking volunteers to walk the foreshore of Cockburn Sound to investigate the decline in local penguin colonies.
The project is part of the Western Australian Marine Science Institution Westport Marine Science Program, a major collaborative science initiative to improve understanding of Cockburn Sound’s unique marine environment.
Researchers will determine local penguins’ annual diet composition and the causes of mortality of penguins within the Cockburn Sound area.
The data gathered will provide crucial information about the species, as well as a unique opportunity for the community to get involved in local penguin research.
Little Penguins are a listed marine species under the Commonwealth Environment Act and particularly vulnerable to human activities and climate change pressures.
Lead researcher Dr Belinda Cannell from UWA’s Oceans Institute said the research would offer insights into how these pressures had impacted penguin colonies and support measures to better conserve their populations.
“Capturing this information over the next two years will make it possible to investigate the cause of penguin mortality and help identify strategies to protect them,” Dr Cannell said.
The 15-kilometre beach will be divided into one-kilometre lengths and volunteers must be prepared to walk their section consistently, at least once a week, over the course of the year. The program will run for two years, and more volunteers will be called for as needed.
Volunteers will be asked to record their penguin encounters via Birdlife Australia’s bird data phone app, which has a soon-to-be-released special data entry for seabirds washed up on the beach.
Dr Cannell said the volunteer program was open to all members of the public, from citizen scientists and community groups, to corporate organisations and ocean lovers.
“This program offers a really unique opportunity to combine daily fitness with nature while helping to contribute to our understanding about the health of local penguin colonies.”
The research team is keen to hear from members of the WA public who would like to participate in the volunteer program. Please contact Belinda.Cannell@uwa.edu.au for further information and to register for the program.
Anna-lee Harry (WAMSI Communications Manager) +61 419 597 587