Fixed wing wildlife surveys at South Georgia

Initiating monitoring support for the SGSSI-MPA Research and Monitoring Plan (DPLUS109)

Start date
1 March, 2020
End date
31 August, 2023

At South Georgia, the climate is changing. Further, species abundances are changing with the recovery of historically depleted species of seal, whale and finfish. In addition, the eradication of introduced non-native mammals from South Georgia is likely to lead to changes in terrestrial habitats, with consequent changes in species diversity. Taken together, these changes mean that large ecological changes are to be anticipated as species populations (and diets) alter.

In this project we propose to initiate monitoring for a range of species in order to document change. Remotely Piloted Arial Surveys (RPAS) offer practical cost-effective solutions. This project will therefore introduce the use of new-generation fixed-wing RPAS, coupled with sophisticated automated analyses. This project will provide a step-change in ability for multi-species baseline reference surveys, while providing an established workflow into the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area (SGSSI MPA) Research and Monitoring Plan, facilitating updates for management policies. The resulting sample data will provide direct counts and trend information. They will also help ground-truth satellite remote-sensing data that cover a wider perspective than is feasible from traditional ground surveys.

Future use of ground-truthed remote-sensing will ensure a lifetime beyond the scope of the current project. Such future-proofing, and legacy outputs will be vital for the SGSSI MPA Research and Monitoring Plan.


Aerial image of king penguins and elephant seals at St Andrews Bay.


A person posing for the camera.

Nathan Fenney

Geomatics Specialist

Mapping and GIS team

South Georgia Groundfish Survey 2021

Philip Hollyman

- Honorary Researcher

Ecosystems team

Martin Collins profile picture

Martin Collins

Marine Ecologist and UKs CCAMLR Scientific Rep

BAS Science Strategy Executive Group, Ecosystems team

King Edward Point Research Station

King Edward Point is primarily a marine and  fisheries research station.   Owned by the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) and operated by British Antarctic Survey …