SCANZ 2013: Technology meets Ecology – Where have all the little blue penguins gone?

Authors: Elise Smith and Anne Scott


The Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society is investigating the distribution of penguins on the Taranaki coast, and monitoring the activity of known populations. We encourage everyone to contribute information, and join us in raising awareness about penguins.

The Society uses the MAIN Trust NZ Geographic Information System for the on-line data entry and analysis, providing maps and downloadable information. It uses a specially designed package of open source software – GeoServer with OpenLayers and a PostgreSQL database. This allows users share and edit geospatial data, even from a desktop Quantum GIS program. The system is very flexible, allowing integration by displaying data on any of the popular mapping applications such as Google Earth. In addition, GeoServer can connect with traditional GIS architectures such as ESRI ArcGIS.

We have been mapping existing penguin nesting sites and the areas where assistance may be given to penguins through habitat restoration, pest trapping and penguin boxes along the length of the Taranaki coastline. In order to find out more about the penguins occupying known existing burrows, we are using the Picaxe datalogging technology. This is used in schools through the Bright Sparks programmes (Andrew Hornblow) and is connected by the kihikihi wireless sensor network project, an open source platform.

We are keen to engage the community in fun ways, using technology to provide a method of seeing the world from a different perspective. We see great scope for the data to be interpreted and distributed using many different interfaces and combining audio, video and environmental monitoring records as music or images.