Kyle Morrison

Doctor of Philosophy, (Ecology)
Study Completed: 2015
College of Sciences


Thesis Title
Factors affecting the population dynamics of Eastern Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome filholi) on Campbell Island, New Zealand

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

Rockhopper Penguin populations have declined dramatically in recent decades at sites across their circum-polar range. At New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic Campbell Island, the Eastern Rockhopper Penguin population crashed by 94% between 1942 and 1984. Climate change was hypothesized to be the main cause, because warmer or more variable sea temperatures can decrease food availability for penguins, causing poor breeding success and survival. Mr. Morrison’s research assessed the population trend since 1984 and relationships between sea temperature and penguin diet quality, body masses, chick-feeding rates, breeding success, and survival. Mr. Morrison found that the overall population decline stabilized around 1996, but that a small, fragmented colony has continued to decline because of high predation rates by skuas and sea lions. Results supported the hypothesized connections between temperature, diet, and demographic rates, while emphasizing constraints on the ability of Rockhopper Penguins to adapt their behaviour to meet the challenges of climate change. 

Associate Professor Phil Battley
Dr David Thompson
Professor Doug Armstrong