Our Work

Our Work

While our medium to long-term goal is to improve our knowledge about and conservation actions for all six New Zealand penguin species, our initial focus is on two of the three mainland species, Little penguins and Tawaki.

Little penguin/kororā

Little penguin/kororā (Eudyptula minor)

Little penguins live and breed all around the New Zealand mainland and the Chatham Islands. While there are many community groups looking after their local Little penguin populations, there is little coordination and information exchange. As result it is difficult to accurately assess the status of Little penguins in New Zealand. Moreover, most scientific information about Little penguins originates from studies conducted in Australia.

Seven main research milestones have been identified essential to improve our ability to develop evidence-based conservation of Little penguins in New Zealand.

Milestone numberCategoryDescriptionTarget OutcomeETA
LP1DemographyLiaise with monitoring data holders to progress analysis of long-term data sets.Publication of comprehensive population analyses2020
LP2DemographyDevelop universal monitoring and survey protocols as well as a centralized Little penguin monitoring database accessible to all regional groups.Open accessible Little penguin monitoring database (web-based)2020
LP3DemographyWork towards adoption of national monitoring plan and adjust monitoring protocols and database requirements.Standard Operational Practice documentation/Monitoring manual2020
LP4DemographyDesign analysis protocols for recorded data.Analysis scripts/cloud-based service/written manual2021
LP5Marine EcologyFacilitate, support and conduct projects investigating foraging behaviour nation-wide to establish a base understanding of Little penguins’ utilization of the marine habitat.Research projectslong term
LP6Marine EcologyLiaise with Australian researchers to ensure continuous flow of information of latest research conducted across the Tasman and facilitate collaborative efforts.Annual summary of novel research outcomes and overview of ongoing research projects.long-term
LP7Human ImpactsIdentify and map regions where human impacts likely play a significant role (e.g. road kill, urban centres) and liaise with relevant community & advocacy groups to mitigate negative effects.Publication; compilation of best practices manual.2020

You can read more about our progress towards our kororā research and conservation milestones here.

Fiordland penguin/tawaki

Fiordland penguin/tawaki (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus)

Until recently, the enigmatic Fiordland penguin or tawaki, has been one of the least studied penguin species in the world despite being one of three penguin species on the New Zealand mainland. In 2014, the Tawaki Project started a long-term research program on the species investigating the species’ marine ecology across its breeding range.

We have teamed up with the Tawaki Project to continue their fantastic work into the future. The research milestones listed below outline how we will achieve this.

Milestone NumberCategoryDescriptionTarget OutcomeETA
FP1DemographyDesign & conduct survey of Fiordland to establish species’ occupancy within fjords.Technical report & scientific publication2022
FP2DemographyWork towards establishing marked populations at representative sites, e.g. Jackson Head, Milford Sound, Whenua Hou and investigate feasibility of automated monitoring solutions.Automated transponder ID gates in place at representative sites within the species' breeding range including maintenance plans.2022
FP3DemographyEstablish national Fiordland penguin database to document population dynamics across all monitored sites. Open accessible Fiordland penguin monitoring database (web-based)2020
FP4DemographyWork towards the continuation DOC’s monitoring program at key sites throughout the species’ mainland range.Independently funded double count monitoring programme on Whenua Hou, Breaksea Island, Stafford & Jackson Head2022
FP5Marine EcologyCoordinate with universities/research organisations to ensure maintenance of research momentum to establish baseline ecological information.Research projectslong term
FP6Marine EcologyExamine species’ fjord ecology and suitability of fjords as buffer zones in the face of continuing ocean warming.PhD student supervision; PhD thesis & scientific publications2022
FP7Marine EcologyInvestigate role of Marine Protected Areas for species’ foraging success as a case study for MPA effectiveness.PhD student supervision; PhD thesis & scientific publications2022
FP8Marine EcologyWork towards an annual foraging monitoring program to assess how fluctuations in the marine environment determine population dynamics.Annual deployment of GPS dive loggers at sites representative of Fiordland penguin breeding distribution (i.e. West Coast, Fiordland, Foveaux Strait)long term

Read more about our progress towards our tawaki research and conservation milestones.

Other New Zealand penguin species

Erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri)

Although the initial focus of our activities will be with Little and Fiordland penguins, we will also seize opportunities to advance our knowledge of other New Zealand penguin species, especially the little studied crested penguin species of the sub-Antarctic region.

Milestone NumberCategoryDescriptionTarget outcomeETA
AP1General BiologyWork towards implementation of long-term monitoring programs on all New Zealand penguin species, particularly population dynamics and marine ecology.long term
AP2Fisheries ImpactsResearch of published records and grey literature to identify regions of increased risk of fisheries interactions.Scientific publication; technical report2020
AP3Fisheries ImpactsSupport and facilitate research projects towards mitigation of fisheries impacts.long term
AP4Fisheries ImpactsLiaise with DOC and MPI and participate in key stakeholder meetings (e.g. Conservation Services Program meetings, Aquatic Environment Work Group).long term
AP5Fisheries ImpactsLiaise with penguin advocacy groups to facilitate evidence-based conservation campaigns. Design analysis protocols for recorded data.long term

Read more about our progress towards these milestones here.