Following the hottest summer on record in the northern hemisphere and with the forecast for our summer to be hot with increased risk of heatwaves, the Maintenance, Research, and Conservation teams at Phillip Island Nature Parks have been working together to help reduce the risk of heat stress impacting the Summerland penguin colony this summer. While the medium- and long-term focus for conservation is to improve penguin habitat through revegetation works, including establishing vegetation around nest boxes across the Peninsula to help cool them in summer, another control measure available to help cool nestboxes is to modify the box design.
Research undertaken by Phillip Island Nature Parks researchers has shown that sloping or A-frame roof designs that provide shade the top and sides of the boxes are effective in reducing temperatures inside the box during extreme hot temperatures, helping nesting penguins to cope with extreme temperatures. While not as effective as reducing temperatures as good native vegetation cover, they are the next best option and the best overall short term control measure available.
Maintenance staff have been busy constructing a supply of sloping roof units that can easily and effectively be retrofitted to our nest-boxes in situ. And conservation and research staff will be working throughout the next few weeks to install them in key areas, specifically in the Penguin Parade area. The first of these have been fitted alongside the parade boardwalk.
The plan is to install the A-frame roofs on nestboxes most exposed to the sun (not covered with vegetation) and for which resident penguins will be at greatest risk of experiencing heat stress during a heat event. The sloping roofs are a short-term control measure and shall be removed post-summer, after which the nest-boxes will be the focus for revegetation plantings next season.