Penguin Research

Earthcare St Kilda has a long history of campaigning for the protection of penguins.

In fact, the protection of the Little Penguin colony on St Kilda Breakwater was the original catalyst for the formation of Earthcare St Kilda and is still a central interest of the organisation.

Penguin Research Group

Twice a month, members of the Earthcare Penguin Research Group venture out in the dark onto the rocks of the St Kilda breakwater and record information on the little penguins that nest there.

Earthcare StKilda Penguin Research

Earthcare StKilda Penguin Research members collecting data Image © Doug Gimesy Photography

For more than 25 years, Earthcare St Kilda has collected a large body of data on the local colony in terms of:

  • Population size
  • Health (based on weight and toxin levels in the blood)
  • Individual life history
  • Breeding numbers and success
  • Diet and
  • Foraging area

This data provides an understanding of the colony and the health of Port Phillip Bay.  As Little Penguins are at the top of the food chain in the northern end of Port Phillip Bay, the St Kilda Little Penguin colony is a bioindicator for changes in the bay, such as dredging and toxins, as well as fish

Penguin Research

Sexing a Little penguin

populations.  Research data gathered is supplied to organisations such as universities, the Phillip Island Research Centre and the Bureau of Meteorology.

Since the research began, changes in the supply of the natural food of the Penguins have had the biggest impact on the population, with the pilchard crash of 1996 and the recent drought thought to affect anchovy populations.  These short-term declines in the food supply have directly influenced the breeding success of the penguin colony.

Research partnering and support

very young penguin chick

Very young Little Penguin Chick

Earthcare St Kilda supports research undertaken by students and graduates from Monash, Deakin and Victoria Universities, and works in collaboration with Melbourne Zoo and the Phillip Island Nature Parks penguin researchers.

Every five years Earthcare St Kilda organises and hosts a penguin symposium, which provides an opportunity for the exchange of ideas and research outcomes between symposium participants. The symposium is open to the general public

Licensing and supervision

All members of the Penguin Research Team are trained in the handling and monitoring of little penguins and samples are collected, where appropriate, under the supervision of veterinarians and/or qualified biologists.

All research and monitoring activities are undertaken with the permission of the Department of Sustainability and Environment and Parks Victoria.

Further Details

For more facts, pictures and research on the St Kilda Little Penguin colony see St Kilda Penguins website and read the Earthcare St Kilda publication The St Kilda Penguins.

Here is a video of the Penguin Monitoring team in action – A Night with the Penguins