Marion Island Take-Over 2024 Ornithology Projects: Avian scavengers as indicators of recovery of an island biota and the FitzPatrick long-term monitoring of Albatross and Giant Petrels.

The activities during the take-over 2024 will be divided into (1) completing the activities of the 2021/23 SANAP project on avian scavengers, and (2) ensuring the smooth passing of the FitzPatrick Institute seabird long-term monitoring on to the South African Polar Research Infrastructure (SAPRI).

ABOVE: Michelle Jones (M80), Vanessa Steven (M81), Prof Susie Cunningham (UCT FitzPatrick PI), Rhiannon Gill (M81), Prof Peter Ryan  (UCT FitzPatrick), Chris Jones (M80)

Avian scavengers as indicators of recovery of an island biota : Since 2021, our SANAP project focussed on the three poorly known avian scavengers: Brown Skua, Kelp Gull, Black-faced Sheathbill, as well as some of the skua’s prey, the burrowing seabird species. Our project filled identified scientific gaps that were crucial for best planning of the mouse eradication and development of appropriate mitigation measures, and established baselines for the scavenger guild and their prey base against which the impact of a successful mouse eradication can be measured in years to come. The takeover 2024 will see the closure of this project that we are aiming to restart at the time of the mouse eradication.

             Above: Chris and Michelle Jones  working with the Wandering Albatross during overwinter period

The FitzPatrick long-term monitoring of Albatross and Giant Petrels: The long-term demography monitoring of Wandering and Grey-headed Albatrosses and Northern Giant Petrels at Marion Island was started by the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology (UCT) in the early 1980s. To ensure its continuity for years to come, it will become SAPRI’s responsibility from April/May 2024. In the forthcoming takeover, all information regarding the monitoring will be passed on to SAPRI to ensure the continuity in the data collected. Further, the annual whole island count of Grey-headed Albatross fledglings will be conducted and Wandering Albatrosses will be carefully checked to detect any potential mouse injuries that were first detected in breeding adults in April 2023.

(left) Michelle Jones with Grey-headed Albatross and (right) Chris Jones with Common Diving Petrel

Principal Investigators

Take-Over Research team

  • Prof. Peter Ryan

Overwintering team 2023/24:

  • Michelle Risi Jones (NMU/SAPRI)
  • Christopher Jones (NMU)


  • Text: Dr Maelle Connan
  • Images : Chris and Michelle Jones
© South African National Antarctic Programme • Managed and administered by Antarctic Legacy of South Africa • Photo Credits
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