The Southern Ocean is one of the most rapidly-changing ecosystems on the planet due to the effects of climate change and commercial fishing for ecologically-important krill and fish. It is imperative that populations of indicator species, such as penguins and seals, be monitored at regional- to global scales to decouple the effects of climate and anthropogenic changes for appropriate ecosystem-based management of the Southern Ocean. Remotely monitoring populations through high-resolution satellite imagery is currently the only feasible way to gain information about population trends of penguins and seals in Antarctica. In my first chapter, I review the literature where high-resolution satellite imagery has been used to assess populations of animals in polar regions. Building on this literature, my second chapter focuses on estimating changes in abundance in the Weddell seal population in Erebus Bay. I found a strong correlation between ground and satellite counts, and this finding provides an alternate method for assessing populations of Weddell seals in areas where less is known about population status. My third chapter explores how size of the guano stain of Adélie penguins can be used to predict population size. Using high-resolution imagery and ground counts, I built a model to estimate the breeding population of Adélie penguins using a supervised classification to estimate guano size. These results suggest that the size of guano stain is an accurate predictor of population size, and can be applied to estimate remote Adélie penguin colonies. In my fourth chapter, I use air photos, satellite imagery, climate and mark-resight data to determine that climate change has positively impacted the population of Adélie penguins at Beaufort Island through a habitat release that ultimately affected the dynamics within the southern Ross Sea metapopulation. Finally, for my fifth chapter I combined the literature with observations from aerial surveys and satellite imagery to determine that emperor penguins are not philopatric. These results have implications for interpreting long-term modeling studies and I suggest that future research should account for metapopulation dynamics within emperor penguin populations. Combined, my dissertation provides resources and new insights for effective management of the Southern Ocean ecosystem.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. April 2014. Major: Conservation Biology. Advisors: Dr. Donald Siniff, Dr. James L.D. Smith. 1 computer file (PDF);v, 116 pages.
LaRue, Michelle Ann.
Using high-resolution satellite imagery to assess populations of animals in Antarctica.
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