Science Shorts: Little Penguins

This month, Wild Melbourne was lucky enough to speak with Associate Professor Richard Reina from Monash University about his research on Phillip Island's iconic Little Penguin population.  

Wild Melbourne's Chris McCormack, joined Richard down at the Phillip Island Nature Park, where he was told all about the expansive, long-term research that has been carried out on what is one of Australia's most well-known wildlife populations. The history of the Phillip Island Nature Park is an exciting one, and can lay claim to being one of the greatest conservation success stories in the world.  Land reclamation of the peninsula has been ongoing since the 1980's and has now been completed, leaving a huge area free for penguin nesting and a huge legacy for our Victorian community to cherish. 

Together with colleague Dr Andre Chiaradia, Richard has discovered much about the ecology of little penguins, and notably, the role they can play as indicators of change in the marine environment. Andre was the first to install weigh-bridges at the colony during his PhD in the 1990's, a device which continues to yield valuable information about individually micro-chipped penguins as they come and go from their nests.  The pair have co-supervised countless students and are ever on the look out to further our knowledge of our marine ecosystems through these iconic, and adorable sea birds. 

Following his conversation with Richard and Andre, Chris set out to follow Wild Melbourne colleague and PhD student Cathy Cavallo, along with fellow student Sonia Sanchez, as they went about monitoring the nesting population of penguins. Together, these two young marine scientists look set to shed light on a number of interesting questions about the penguins and their connection with our marine environment, and we look forward to hearing more from them in the future. 

Wild Melbourne would like to thank Richard, Andre, and the entire team down at the Phillip Island Nature Park, for allowing us to get a glimpse of the amazing science and conservation work happening just a few hours from Melbourne's CBD.

You can get around more of their science stories by following them on twitter: (Richard Reina, Cathy Cavallo, Phillip Island NP


We interview Associate Professor Richard Reina of Monash University about his team's research on Phillip Island's Little Penguins.


We join two of Richard Reina's PhD students as they monitor Phillip Island's Little Penguin population.