How GIS can assist understanding spatial distributions of little penguin colonies and burrows

Dr Perviz Marker1, Professor Mark  Hindell2, A/Prof Alastair Richardson3

1University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 2IMAS, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 3School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


Many seabirds breed colonially. These colonies are usually positioned to minimise the distance to foraging grounds. Nest-site locations within a colony are a response to micro scale factors such as avoidance of predators or proximity to potential mates. Seabird colonies and the locations of nest-sites within them can show a clustered, random or dispersed pattern. The spatial relationships at different scales: meso (state-wide: 100s km), regional (colony: 10s km); coarse (nest-site distribution within colonies: 100s m) and micro (nest-site characteristics: < 1m), are examined to see whether their locations are clustered, random or dispersed. At the nest-site micro scale (nest-site), the analysis is extended to investigate what factors may contribute to the observed patterns. Six colonies from Doctor’s Rocks to Sulphur Creek along the North West Coast of Tasmania are used.

Spatial ecological analyses using GIS are undertaken in order to understand how a series of little penguin (Eudyptula minor) colonies on the island of Tasmania and in particular the North West Coast region of the island are distributed along the coastline. It should be recognised that GIS is only as useful as the data available and much of that is determined by the accuracy of the data collected by a Global Positioning System (GPS).

The results obtained from this analysis provide some understanding of the densities within and among colonies that could have consequences for the conservation and management of little penguin colonies in areas where habitat is degraded.


Dr Perviz Marker has recently completed her PhD study entitled “Spatial Scale and Nest Distribution of Little Penguins”. She has been working in coastal management issues related to Little Penguins for 20 years in the North West of Tasmania with community groups, Cradle Coast NRM, TasRail and Councils. Perviz started the Friends of Burnie Penguins in 2005 and is the coordinator for the group.