Dr Lorien Pichegru

PhD (Strasbourg, France)

John Day Building: 2.15

Lorien’s research focuses on seabird foraging ecology and life history traits in relation to prey availability and local competition with industrial fisheries. She uses animal-borne miniaturized recorders such as GPS recorders combined with pressure sensors, cameras, etc, to determine the at-sea behaviour of several species of seabirds endemic to South Africa, all threatened with extinction. As part of the Island Closure Task Team (Department of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries) she is currently investigating whether the recent drastic decreases in African penguin numbers, now Endangered, could be reduced by excluding fishing from penguin foraging areas. She wishes to gain an understanding of penguin-prey interaction in relation to ocean-physical processes to optimize the use of the marine resources by fisheries and marine predators and to help refine conservation strategies. She monitors penguin colonies in Algoa Bay, off Port Elizabeth, with the extensive help of many students and colleagues as well as rangers from South African National Parks.

Lorien obtained her PhD from the University of Strasbourg, France, in 2008, spent five years as a post-doctoral fellow at the FitzPatrick and is now a research associate of the institute.

Current students


Rabi’a Rijklief (NMMU): Gannets in contrasting environments: behaviour, demographics and indicators of environmental change (Co-supervisor: Pierre Pistorius).

Masters (Dissertation)

Noëlle Tubbs (UCT): Heat tolerance in the African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) in the face of climate change (Co-supervisors: Peter Ryan, Jonathan Green).

Masters (Coursework)

Brigitte Heylen (Ghent): African penguin foraging behaviour in the face of climate change


Plaxedes Vimbai (NUST, Zimbabwe): Communication in Cape gannets - the greeting behaviour (Co-supervisors: Peter Mundy, David Gremillet)

Graduated students


Alistair McInnes (2016): At-sea behavioural responses of African Penguins in relation to small-scale variability in prey distribution: implications for Marine Protected Areas (Co-supervisors: Peter Ryan, M. Lacerda).

Masters (dissertation)

Jenny Roberts (2016) Tracking African Penguins in the non-breeding season (Co-supervisors: Peter Ryan, Ross Wanless, Christina Moseley)

Anouk Spelt (cum laude) (Amsterdam 2015): Penguin parenthood - what are the keys to success?

Gwendoline Traisnel (Brest 2015): Personality of African penguins: do bolder birds have higher fitness?

Reason Nyengera (NMMU 2013-14): Impact of seismic surveys on African penguins and their prey (Co-supervisor: Pierre Pistorius)

Diane Smith (distinction) (Rhodes 2013-14) Penguin parenting: assortative mating, nest attendance and sex-specific chick provisioning in the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) (Co-Supervisor: Christopher McQuaid)

Paige Potter (NMMU 2012-13): The dynamics of anchovy and sardine in Algoa Bay and their influences on response variables in two threatened avian predators (Co-supervisors: Pierre Pistorius, Nadine Strydom)

Rowen van Eeden (distinction and winner of Purcell Memorial Prize) (UCT 2010-12): The foraging ecology of African penguins in relation with ocean physical processes and prey availability (Co-supervisor: Peter Ryan). 

Masters (coursework: Conservation Biology)

Lea Cohen (UCT 2012-13): Environmental conditions, foraging effort and chick growth in Cape gannets: insight from a long-term study (Co-supervisors:Peter Ryan, David Grémillet)

Craig Harding (UCT 2012-13) Tracking African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) outside of the breeding season: regional effects of fishing pressure during the pre-moult period. (Co-supervisors: Peter Ryan, Ross Wanless)

Christina Moseley (UCT 2009-10): Impact of fishery wastes on the eco-physiology of adult Cape gannets (Co-supervisors:Peter Ryan, David Grémillet)

Maïke Hamann (UCT 2008-9): Conservation implications of the foraging behaviour of breeding Cape cormorants (Phalacrocorax capensis) (Co-supervisors:Peter Ryan, David Grémillet)

Nicola Okes (UCT 2007-8): Fish and fisheries in the southern Benguela: is a management paradigm shift needed to conserve fish-eating birds (Co-supervisor: David Grémillet)


Kirstin Stephens (Rhodes 2015): Spatial and temporal match-mismatch between endangered African penguins, small pelagic fish and primary production. (Co-supervisor: Christopher McQuaid)

Itai Mukutyu (NUST, Zimbabwe 2015): Foraging behaviour of African penguins in Algoa Bay (Co-supervisor: Peter Mundy)

Keigan Doherty (Rhodes 2014): Heat tolerance in African penguins in the face of climate change (Co-supervisor: Christopher McQuaid)

Melissa Pollard (Rhodes 2013): Mate choice in African penguins: is mating assortative? (Co-supervisor: Christopher McQuaid).

Shana Mian (Rhodes 2012): Mate choice in African penguins: is mating assortative? (Co-supervisor: Christopher McQuaid)

Ben Dilley (UCT 2011): Is the growth rate of chicks directly related to breeding adults’ foraging effort in African penguin? (Co-supervisor: Peter Ryan)

Candice Owen (Rhodes 2011): Comparative foraging behaviour and diets of African penguins from two colonies, in Nelson Mandela Bay. (Co-supervisor: Christopher McQuaid)

Kirsty McQuaid (Rhodes 2011): Is the growth rate of chicks directly related to breeding adults’ foraging effort in African penguin? (Co-supervisor: Christopher McQuaid)

Trevor Edwards (UCT 2010) Minimum approach distances to African penguins: what is safe?” (Co-supervisor: Peter Ryan)

Kyran Write (UCT 2010): Do African penguins use olfaction to detect their prey at sea? (Co-supervisor: Peter Ryan)

Jonathan Handley (Rhodes 2010) Sex specific foraging behaviour and an investigation into using cloaca width to confirm sexual dimorphism in bill morphology in African penguins on Bird Island. (Co-supervisor: Christopher McQuaid)

Nina Voogt (Rhodes 2010): Sex specific foraging behaviour and an investigation into using cloaca width to confirm sexual dimorphism in bill morphology in African penguins on Bird Island. (Co-supervisor: Christopher McQuaid)

Nikita Steele (Rhodes 2010): Impact of culling kelp gulls on their predation rate on Vulnerable African penguins on Bird Island, Nelson Mandela Bay. (Co-supervisor: Christopher McQuaid)

Petra de Abreu (UCT 2009): Foraging effort in relation to chick condition in African penguins from Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape Province.(Co-supervisor: Peter Ryan)

Jenny Marie Booth (Rhodes 2009): Comparative foraging behaviour and diets of African penguins at St Croix and Bird Islands, Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape Province (Co-supervisor: Christopher McQuaid)

Jess Watermeyer (Rhodes 2009): Sex-specific foraging behaviour in African penguins.(Co-supervisor: Christopher McQuaid)

Sara Sharon Jones (Rhodes 2009): Impact of Kelp gull predation on a population of Vulnerable penguins, the African penguin, in Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape Province. (Co-supervisor: Christopher McQuaid)


Bonnie Lei: (Harvard 2012): African penguin thermoregulatory behaviour.

Recent peer-reviewed publications


McInnes, A.M., McGeorge, C., Ginsberg, S., Pichegru, L. and Pistorius, P.A. 2017. Group foraging increases foraging efficiency in a piscivorous diver, the African penguin. Royal Society Open Science 4: 170918. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.170918

McInnes, A.M., Ryan, P.G., Lacerda, M., Deshayes, J., Goschen, W.S. and Pichegru, L. 2017. Small pelagic fish responses to fine-scale oceanographic conditions: implications for the endangered African penguin. Marine Ecology Progress Series 569: 187-203. http://dx.doi.org/10.3354/meps12089

Pichegru, L., Nyengera, R., McInnes, A.M. and Pistorius, P. 2017. Avoidance of seismic survey activities by penguins. Scientific Reports 7: 16305. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-16569-x


Grémillet, D., Péron, C., Kato, A., Amélineau, F., Ropert-Coudert, Y., Ryan, P.G. and Pichegru, L. 2016. Starving seabirds: unprofitable foraging and its fitness consequences in Cape gannets competing with fisheries in the Benguela upwelling ecosystem. Marine Biology 163: 35. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00227-015-2798-2

Pichegru, L., Edwards, T.B., Dilley, B.J. and Ryan, P.G. 2016. African penguin tolerance to humans depends on historical exposure at colony level. Bird Conservation International http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0959270915000313

Spelt, A. and Pichegru, L. 2016. Sex allocation and sex-specific parental investment in an endangered seabird. Ibis. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ibi.12457

Van Eeden, R.B., Reid, T., Ryan, P.G. and Pichegru, L. 2016. Fine-scale foraging cues for African Penguins in a highly variable marine environment. Marine Ecology Progress Series 543: 257-271 (Abstract published online December 2015; Published online 03 February 2016). http://dx.doi.org/10.3354/meps11557


McInnes, A.M., Khoosal, A., Murrell, B., Merkle, D., Lacerda, M., Nyengera, R., Coetzee, J.C., Edwards, L.C., Ryan, P.G., Rademan, J., van der Westhuizen, J.J. & Pichegru, L. 2015. Recreational fish-finders - an inexpensive alternative to scientific echo-sounders for unravelling the links between marine top predators and their prey. PLoS ONE https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0140936

Pettex, E., Barrett, R.T., Lorentsen, S.-H., Bonadonna, B., Pichegru, L., Pons, J.-B. & Grémillet, D. 2015. Contrasting population trends at seabirds colonies: is food limitation a factor in Norway?  Journal of Ornithology 156:397-406.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10336-014-1137-6