Dr Tom Hart
My research centres around how to monitor penguins and other marine predators in difficult environments such as Antarctica.
Many of the most important environments on the planet are too data deficient to understand global change and to permit effective management. I spend a lot of time developing tools and techniques to scale up monitoring and data gathering from these environments. One of the most important is SnowBank - a repository and swap shop for polar samples, which aims to reduce the cost of polar research. I go to lots of remote places around the Southern Ocean - if you need samples that I can collect, please get in touch.
Population genetics of penguins.
I am carrying out population genetic and phylogeographic studies of penguins around Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic, using microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA. The aim of this project is to see how different species of penguin populations are structured around the Southern Ocean and how these populations have changed in the past in response to changing ice conditions. The aim is to define biologically meaningful management units for policy makers and to help identify where best to place protected areas. There are many collaborators for this work, but primarily Mike Polito at Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute and Steve Emslie at UNCW.
Cameras, counts and citizen science.
Monitoring animals in such an extreme climate is challenging. Many species spend much of their time at sea, and the environment they live in is both hostile and remote, making the visits required to monitor them, demanding and costly. For these reasons, the monitoring efforts for many penguin colonies in Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic islands have to date, been limited. However, by adapting existing camera technology and using time-lapse photography, we are trialling the development of a new monitoring array for the southern polar region. By monitoring remotely, we hope to be able to ask new questions about the response of Antarctic penguins to their changing world. One such site is at Port Lockroy run by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, where we have set up a camera next to a monitored colony.
By collaborating with tourist operators we are trying to reach many more potential monitoring sites over the Antarctic Peninsula and surrounding islands. It is possible to expand the current monitoring network to include a far greater coverage of species and network sites, in a cost effective manner. I work closely with the Zoological Society of London, Oceanites' Antarctic Site Inventory and Heather Lynch at Stony Brook University.