Ecology and Evolution

Composition de l'équipe

Directeur de Recherche CNRS

   -   Dr Yvon LE MAHO

Chargé(e) de Recherche

   -   Dr Céline LE BOHEC    -   Dr Victor PLANAS-BIELSA



The main objective of the research carried out within the Department of Polar Biology is to understand the evolution of polar ecosystems, the most vulnerable regions of our planet today hit hard by climate change. We are interested in seabirds and especially penguins because they are valuable bio-indicators of the health of their ecosystems, and therefore incomparable biological models to study the health of our planet. 

Main study species

Our research mainly focus on 3 species of penguins (king, Adélie, emperor penguins)
located on 4 sites (sub-Antarctic archipelagos of Crozet and Kerguelen, Adélie Land and Dronning Maud Land on the Antarctic continent).

Research axes

We aim to assess the adaptive capacities of penguins to environmental changes through: 

  • the study of individual responses to these changes,
  • the projection of the evolution of these populations according to the projected scenarios of climate change,
  • the development of non-intrusive observational methodologies in natural environments.

Technological innovations

We use many innovative technologies to minimize the impact of our observations on the study species, e.g. automatic identification and weighing systems, cameras tracking and recording the activities of individuals in the colony. Today, we can also access information previously impossible to obtain thanks to rovers slipping inside the colony, or miniaturized bio-loggers (GPS, Argos, Temperature-Depth recorders, or accelerometers) to track penguins while foraging at sea. To manage and analyze the huge amount of data, we use artificial intelligence and machine-learning techniques.

Life Observatories 

In partnership with the CNRS and the programs of the French (IPEV) and German (AWI) Polar Institutes, our Department implements long-term monitoring of undisturbed penguin populations. The implantation of electronic tags (0.8 g) under penguins’ skin, allows the tracking of these birds thanks to detection antennas deployed on the pathways to their breeding colony.
With more than 17,000 penguins marked and monitored continuously since 1998, this exceptional database allows us to study the impact of environmental variability on populations and their fate, and to define crucial areas for penguins, which it is essential to preserve through the design of Marine Protected Areas.