DEAKIN University researchers will investigate why more than half of the world’s penguin population is facing the threat of extinction.The researchers say the sentinel of the marine environment can provide insight into the health and productivity of oceans.
Deakin University’s Centre for Integrative Ecology researcher Meagan Dewar will be gathering detailed data about microbes and their role in penguins’ digestion, metabolism, immune system and health.
“Over 55 per cent of penguin species are facing extinction with climate change, fisheries, pollution and disease the major threats,” Dr Dewar said.
“We don’t know enough about the crucial role that microbes play in penguin health, nutrition and physiology and this lack of information about what’s considered to be normal and what is pathogenic hampers our ability to diagnose disease in penguins in the wild.”
Researchers from Deakin’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences are on a crowd-funding campaign to raise $10,000 to start the research.
Dr Dewar said the money would help to sequence the microbes of 42 penguins from the King, Gentoo, Macaroni and Little penguin species.
“This research will provide vital baseline information on the functional role of microbes in penguins and give us a better understanding of the impact of environmental change and disease,” she said.
Dr Dewar said the research would build knowledge about the basic biology of penguins.
“Funding for this type of time-consuming and meticulous work can be difficult to find, which is why we’ve turned to crowd-funding. We really need the help of any members of the public who are concerned about the ocean environment and love penguins to come together and support the campaign.”