MAPRU_Marion 2023

TEAM MAPRUAffiliation
Project NameAvian scavengers & seabirds
Principal InvestigatorDr Maëlle ConnanMAPRU, Nelson Mandela University
Co-InvestigatorProf Peter RyanFitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town
M79 Field Assistant Lucy SmythMAPRU, Nelson Mandela University
M80 Field Assistant Christopher JonesMAPRU, Nelson Mandela University
M80 Field Assistant Michelle RisiMAPRU, Nelson Mandela University and the South African Polar Research Infrastructure (SAPRI)

This team is studying seabirds at Marion Island and has two projects for the period 2021-2023: 

1) Avian scavenger project focusing mostly on Black-faced Sheathbill, Kelp Gull and Brown Skua as well as some of their prey.

2) FitzPatrick long-term monitoring of Wandering Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross and Northern Giant Petrel.  

More about the avian scavenger project:

This project started in 2021. It is tightly linked to the Mouse-Free Marion project.

Our aim is two fold: 1) we fill identified scientific gaps at the bird level that are crucial for best planning of the mouse eradication and development of appropriate mitigation measures. We are mostly focusing on three species of avian scavengers: Black-faced Sheathbill, Kelp Gull and Brown Skua and some of their prey. 2) we propose to use the three scavengers as indicators of recovery of the terrestrial ecosystem post-eradication by establishing baselines for the scavenger guild and their prey against which the impact of a successful mouse eradication can be measured in years to come.

More about the FitzPatrick long-term monitoring project: 

The FitzPatrick long-term monitoring of Wandering and Grey-headed albatrosses and Northern Giant Petrel started in the early 1980s and has continued ever since. This individual-based monitoring of threatened species allows us to study the threats they face at sea (e.g. fisheries) and on land (e.g. mice) in order to act and decrease these threats and improve the conservation status. The species’ long-term monitoring is crucial as it allows us to decipher abnormal years from long-term trends.

More about the fieldwork: 

The two projects above involve for example extensive counts of birds, lots of hiking, observations of bird behavior and record keeping of the activity of known individuals year after year.   

What are your plans for this takeover:

During the takeover, we will be debriefing the year of Lucy Smyth who has worked on the island for our projects since April 2022. We will also train Chris and Michelle for the year ahead in all aspects, from field work to data entry and back-ups.


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Text by Dr Maëlle Connan.

Images supplied by Christopher Jones.

Featured image: The MAPRU takeover 2023 team. L-R: Dr Maëlle Connan (PI), Lucy Smyth (M79 MAPRU Field Assistant), Michelle Risi (M80 MAPRU Field Assistant) and Christopher Jones (M80 MAPRU Field Assistant). Image taken on the Western side of the island. 

Anche Louw, South African Polar Research Infrastructure (SAPRI DPS Node), 10 May 2023

© South African National Antarctic Programme • Managed and administered by Antarctic Legacy of South Africa • Photo Credits
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