Satellite images of penguin poop lead scientists to ‘exciting discovery’

In the ever-advancing field of global science, you might think that discovering animal poop in satellite imagery would be of little consequence. But for a research team

studying Antarctica, making such a find led to what it described as “an exciting discovery.” Perhaps we’d better explain. After poring over images from the European

Commission’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite mission and also the Maxar WorldView-3 satellite, scientists were recently able to confirm the existence of a new emperor penguin

colony comprising around 500 birds. The scientists were able to identify the colony from the birds’ guano stains, which are brown in color and therefore relatively easy to

spot against the ice and rock, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) explained in a report. The emperor penguin is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin types, and

last year was declared a threatened species by the U.S. government due to the effects of the changing climate. The image below is from the Maxar satellite and shows the

location of the newly discovered colony at Verleger Point in West Antarctica. This latest discovery means that scientists now have data on 66 emperor penguin colonies

along the Antarctica coastline, with half of these discovered via satellite imagery. “This is an exciting discovery,” said Dr. Peter Fretwell, who studies wildlife from

space at BAS. “The new satellite images of Antarctica’s coastline have enabled us to find many new colonies. And whilst this is good news, like many of the recently discovered

sites, this colony is small and in a region badly affected by recent sea ice loss.”