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In birds, moult is an integral part of the annual life cycle required to ensure efficient flight, display and thermoregulation. In penguins, while not used for flight, well maintained feathers are crucial for minimising drag and body heat loss in water. Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) moult after breeding, replacing their entire plumage, and must remain ashore fasting for the duration (approximately 20 days). During this period their body mass may halve and, therefore, moult may have consequences for both survival over winter and the timing and success of subsequent breeding. Little is known of the factors determining the timing (which varies across their range) and duration of moult, and its impact on other life history events, in this species. Such knowledge is crucial for understanding how this species may respond to global change.
This project, a collaboration between Deakin University and the Phillip Island Nature Park, will investigate the endocrinological and metabolic patterns associated with the annual moult in relation to environmental factors such as climate, photoperiod and timing of breeding in Little Penguins across their latitudinal range. The project will involve extensive field and laboratory work. The ideal student will have graduated with a high H1 Honours mark, be self-motivated and able to work in difficult field conditions.
Participants: Assoc. Prof. John Arnould (PI), Dr Peter Dann (Phillip Island Nature Park), Prof. Lee Astheimer