Dr Tom Hart

Research Interests

My research centres around how to monitor penguins and other marine predators in difficult environments such as Antarctica. Many of the most important environments on the planet are too data deficient to understand global change and to permit effective management. I spend a lot of time developing tools and techniques to scale up monitoring and data gathering from these environments. One of the most important is SnowBank - a repository and swap shop for polar samples, which aims to reduce the cost of polar research. I go to lots of remote places around the Southern Ocean - if you need samples that I can collect, please get in touch.

Population genetics of penguins. 

I am carrying out population genetic and phylogeographic studies of penguins around Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic, using microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA. The aim of this project is to see how different species of penguin populations are structured around the Southern Ocean and how these populations have changed in the past in response to changing ice conditions. The aim is to define biologically meaningful management units for policy makers and to help identify where best to place protected areas. There are many collaborators for this work, but primarily Mike Polito at Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute and Steve Emslie at UNCW.

Cameras, counts and citizen science.

Monitoring animals in such an extreme climate is challenging.  Many species spend much of their time at sea, and the environment they live in is both hostile and remote, making the visits required to monitor them, demanding and costly. For these reasons, the monitoring efforts for many penguin colonies in Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic islands have to date, been limited.  However, by adapting existing camera technology and using time-lapse photography, we are trialling the development of a new monitoring array for the southern polar region.  By monitoring remotely, we hope to be able to ask new questions about the response of Antarctic penguins to their changing world. One such site is at Port Lockroy run by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, where we have set up a camera next to a monitored colony.

By collaborating with tourist operators we are trying to reach many more potential monitoring sites over the Antarctic Peninsula and surrounding islands.  It is possible to expand the current monitoring network to include a far greater coverage of species and network sites, in a cost effective manner. I work closely with the Zoological Society of London, Oceanites' Antarctic Site Inventory and Heather Lynch at Stony Brook University.

Selected Publications

Cole, T. L., Ksepka, D. T., Mitchell, K., Tennyson, A. J. D., Pan, H., Thomas, D. B., Zhang, G., Rawlence, N. J., Wood, J. R., Bover, P., Bouzat, J. L., Cooper, A., Fiddaman, S., Hart, T., Miller, G., Ryan, P., Shepherd, L., Wilmshurst, J. M. & Waters, J. M. (2019) Mitogenomes uncover extinct penguin taxa and reveal island formation as a key driver of speciation. Molecular Biology and Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msz017

Clucas, G. V., Younger, J. L. , Kao, D., Rogers, A. D., Bost, C., Handley, J., Miller, G.,  Crofts, S., Gharbi, K., Miller, K. J.  & Hart, T. (2018) Comparative population genomics in Antarctica: ecological & evolutionary factors driving patterns of intraspecific genetic variation in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic penguins. Molecular Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.14896

Jones, F. M., Allen, C., Arteta, C., Black, C., Emmerson, L. M., Freeman, R., Hines, G., Lintott, C. J., Miller, G., Simpson, R., Southwell, C., Zisserman, A & Hart, T. (2018) Time-lapse imagery from penguin colonies – data for monitoring and computer vision, using citizen science. Scientific Data https://doi.org/10.1038/sdata/2018.124

Hart, T. & Convey, P. (2018) The South Sandwich Islands – a terrestrial community of metapopulations across all trophic levels. Biodiversity https://doi.org/10.1080/14888386.2018.1464952

Samanta Dodino, S., Hart, T., Harris, S. & Raya Rey, A. (2018) Year-round colony attendance patterns for the Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua) at Martillo Island, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina https://doi.org/10.1676/17-026.1

Black, C., Southwell, C., Emmerson, L. & Hart, T. (2018) Time-lapse imagery of Adelie penguins reveals a mid-winter phase of site occupation. PLOSOne https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193532

Borowicz, A., McDowall, P., Youngflesh, C., Sayre-McCord, T., Clucas, G. V., Forrest, S., Hart, T., Herman, R., Jenouvrier, S., Polito, M., Rider, M.   Singh, H. & Lynch, H. J. (2018) Newly-discovered Adélie penguin colonies reveal major seabird hotspot in the Danger Islands. Scientific Reports https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-22313-w  

Foley, C. M., Hart, T., & Lynch, H.J. (2018) King penguin populations increase on South Georgia but explanations remain elusive. Polar Biology https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-018-2271-z

Stable isotope analyses of feather amino acids identify penguin migration strategies at ocean basin scales. Polito, M. J., Hinke, J. T., Hart, T. Santos, M., Houghton, L. A. & Thorrold, S. R. (2017) Biology Letters. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2017.0241

Clucas, G. V., Younger, J. L. , Kao, D., Rogers, A. D., Gharbi, K., Miller, K. J.  & Hart, T (2017) Recognising metapopulation structure in emperor penguins is critical for their future conservation. Molecular Ecology https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.14172

Black, C., Reya Rey, A. & Hart, T. (2017) Peeking into the bleak midwinter- investigating non-breeding strategies of seabirds using a camera network. Auk http://dx.doi.org/10.1642/AUK-16-69.1

Levy, H. J., Clucas, G. V., Rogers, A. D., Leaché, A. D., Ciborowski, K., Polito, M. J., Lynch, H. J., Dunn, M. & Hart, T. (2016) Population structure and phylogeography of the Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua) across the Scotia Arc Ecology and Evolution https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.1929

Hart, T., Lynch, H. J. & Naveen, R. (2015) Probe effects of krill fishing and climate. Nature https://doi.org/10.1038/523410c 

Younger, J. L. , Clucas, G. V., Kooyman, G., Wienecke, B., Rogers, A. D., Trathan, P. N., Miller, K. J.  & Hart, T (2015) Too much of a good thing; sea ice extent may have forced emperor penguins into refugia during the last glacial maximum. Global Change Biology https://doi.org/0.1111/gcb.12882

Clucas, G. V., Rogers, A. D., Emslie, S., Polito, M., Dunn, M. & Hart, T. (2014) A reversal of fortunes: climate change 'winners' and 'losers' in Antarctic Peninsula penguins. Scientific Reports  https://doi.org/10.1038/srep05024