Research Scientist

Andre research field is on prey-predator relationships and interactions with their environment using little penguins as case study. Together with collaborators, they have developed more sensitive variables such as foraging efficiency, presence/absence of thermoclines and foraging-trip-duration to detect environmental changes, complementing traditional variables of population size, mortality or survival. His research produced over 40 scientific papers in peer reviewed journals on foraging behaviour of little penguins. Andre is academic editor for PLoS ONE and Open Journal of Ornithology, editor of the Australasian Seabird Group Bulletin and affiliated to the Monash University. See also interview at ABC Meet the Scientist.


       Phone: + 61 (3) 59512849

       Mail:     Phillip Island Nature Parks, PO Box 97, Cowes Vic. 3922, Australia

Professional area

Foraging ecology, seabirds, trophic interactions, food webs

Current projects

  • Ecosystem modelling of Northwest Bass Strait - Ecopath with Ecosim
  • Food web of little penguins
  • Conventional diet of little penguins and crested terns
  • Prey-predator interactions using isotopic diet
  • Diving behaviour of little penguins
  • Attendance patterns and environment changes
  • Development and upgrade of remote automated systems
  • Effect of artificial light on penguins and shearwaters
  • Research newsletter and website editor

Current post graduate students

  • Nicole Kowalczyk. Trophic interaction of Little penguins at St Kilda: predator-prey relationships in limited a foraging zone and on a specialised diet. (Ph.D., Monash University – Richard Reina)
  • Airam Rodrigues. Artificial lights and seabirds: solutions to a fatal attraction (Post Doc, Marie Curie Fellow, Estacion Biologica de Donana, Spain, Juan Negro)
  • Kelly Edwards. Effect of age on the foraging behaviour of Little penguins. (MSc, University of Southhampton, John Williams and IFREMER, France, Claire Saraux)
  • Matt Simpson. Changes in foraging behaviour under increased breeding success (B.Sc. Hons., Monash University - Richard Reina)
  • Kevin Leal. Decadal-year changes in diving and diet of little penguins. (MSc, Université de Strasbourg, France, Yan Ropert-Coudert and Akiko Kato)

Selected recent publications (full list in Google Scholar)

Ropert-Coudert Y, Kato K and Chiaradia A.(2009). The impact of small-scale environmental perturbations on marine predators. Proceedings Royal Society B: 276, 4105-4109.

Little penguins feed preferentially around thermoclines. Extreme weather events are expected to increase due to predicted climate changes which will disperse the thermoclines; decreasing penguin foraging success.

Chiaradia A and Nisbet ICT. (2006). Plasticity in parental provisioning and chick growth in little penguins in years of high and low breeding success. Ardea 94: 257-270.

Inshore seabirds such as little penguins respond to years of distinct breeding success. It showed that chick responses were related to annual productivity; which can be used as food availability index.

Chiaradia A, Costalunga A and Kerry K. (2003). The diet of little penguins Eudyptula minor at Phillip Island following the 1995 mass mortality of one of their main prey, the pilchard Sardinops sagax. Emu 103: 43 - 48.

It reports a dramatic change in the diet of penguins following massive mortality of pilchards, once penguins’ major prey.

Daniel T, Chiaradia A, Logan M, Quinn G and Reina R. (2007). Synchronised group association in little penguins (Eudyptula minor). Animal Behaviour. 74: 1241-1248.

We showed for the first time on penguins that they form non-randomly groups in years of high breeding success, but not in years of low breeding success.

Deagle BE, Chiaradia A, McInnes J and Jarman SN. (2010). Pyrosequencing faecal DNA to determine diet of little penguins: is what. goes in what comes out? Conservation Genetics. 11: 2039-2048.

We have trialled this technique on captive penguins which provided quantitate interpretations of dietary barcoding data showing that DNA sequences can be useful for diet studies such as this proposal.

Chiaradia A, Forero MG, Cullen M and Hobson KA. (2010). Changes in diet and trophic position of a top predator ten years after a mass mortality of a key prey. ICES Journal of Marine Science. 67: 1710-1720.

After 10 years, the disappearance of pilchard resulted in a decrease in prey diversity and led penguins to “fish up” the foodweb, possibly because of the simplified trophic structure.

Saraux C, Robinson-Laverick S M, Le Maho Y, Ropert-Coudert Y and Chiaradia A. (2011). Plasticity in foraging strategies of inshore birds: how Little Penguins maintain body reserves while feeding offspring: Ecology 92: 1909-1916.

It showed that inshore seabirds like Little penguins do have an elaborate foraging plan, alternating long and short foraging trips to provide to their young and self-maintenance.

Zimmer I, Ropert-Coudert Y, Kato A, Ancel A and Chiaradia A. (2011). Does foraging performance change with age in female little penguins (Eudyptula minor)? PLoS ONE 6(1): e16098. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016098.

We found that middle aged females were better foragers than young/old females. The middle age group has good fitness and experience so they may respond better to negative environmental changes.

Preston TJ, Chiaradia A and Reina R. (2010). Fine scale tracking and biologging for conservation of an inshore marine animal. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 390(2): 196-202.

This study showed distinct advantages of combined GPS-TDR loggers that can provide simultaneous information on the penguin's three-dimensional space; essential information in conservation applications for animals with limited foraging ranges.

Chiaradia A, Forero MG, Hobson KA, Swearer SE, Hume F, Renwick L and Dann D. (2012). Diet segregation between two colonies of little penguins (Eudyptula minor). Austral Ecology 37: 610–619.

This study revealed diet segregation between colonies with close proximity. We found diet composition and isotopic values were different but with no effect in prey quality (similar protein levels).