It is also the only island to date with a population estimate (285,000-305,000) derived from a ground survey of the island. For nearly 50 years, researchers and scientists thought that the general population of Adélie penguins was decreasing.
According to Heather Lynch, Associate Professor of Ecology & Evolution at Stony Brook University, co-author of the new study, one of the reasons why these penguin supercolonies may have gone undiscovered for so long may have been due to the islands' remoteness. "In the Antarctic, distances are so vast, something major could be just around the corner and you wouldn't know".
Their goal was to count the numbers of the bird by hand.
Once the research team got confirmation via Landsat that the penguins likely populate the islands, they made a decision to try to make the trip and count the birds by hand. It is a huge number of penguins.
Singh helped scientists develop the imaging software.
'We were... very lucky to have a window of time where the sea ice moved out and we could get a yacht in, ' said Lynch.
The area was named the Danger Islands by a British explorer called James Clark Ross, who nearly ran into rocks nearby because they were buried under ice.
The data seemed to suggest that there were hundreds of thousands of penguins living on this islands, which Lynch initially thought "was a mistake". The Danger Islands are surrounded by treacherous waters and are almost inaccessible in even the peak of summer, since the ocean nearby remains covered with thick sea ice.
To count the newly discovered penguins, the scientists used human and artificial intelligence. In 2015, researchers from LSU, Oxford University, Stony Brook, Northeastern University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution traveled to the island chain to count the birds.
"It puts the East Antarctic Peninsula in stark contrast to the Adélie and chinstrap penguin declines that we are seeing on the West Antarctic Peninsula".
Polito said he and his graduate students are conducting similar studies of the relationship between wildlife and their surroundings, including food sources and human-caused changes in their availability, in studying species along the Louisiana Gulf Coast. "Sustenance accessibility? That is something we don't have the foggiest idea", she says.