Trailing Penguins in Patagonia
Be among the first people to get a glimpse of what penguins do far out at sea, and learn how this behavior could affect their chicks back on land.
Penguin colonies are a bustling place with adults either disappearing into the ocean to forage for food or returning to feed their chicks. How and where penguins get this food is still unknown, but this foraging behavior is crucial to the species' survival as it can shape the fate of the penguin chicks. Join a team of scientists making cutting-edge use of technology to solve this mystery and gather data that can inform how we work to conserve this beloved bird.
Travel to the rookeries—nesting colonies—on the dramatic rocky shores of Argentina’s Golfo San Jorge to investigate. Spend your days in a national park, getting up close and personal with penguins in a colony with about 9,000 breeding pairs.
While the land within the national park has government protection, most of the waters off its coast don’t—which is why researchers need to document where these charming birds go and what they do out at sea. With that knowledge, they can understand which parts of the ocean most need protection to keep penguin populations strong.
Earthwatch volunteers will help tag penguins and map the location of each nest in the colony. They will also select 50 or so sets of penguin parents to track with sophisticated underwater cameras and GPS devices. Volunteers will help mount these devices, which will capture every move the penguins make. For the first time, researchers will get a detailed picture of how and where this bird population forage and feed their young.
A Typical Itinerary
- Day 1: Arrive in Trelew, Chubut, travel to Camarones
- Days 2-5: Map penguin colony, monitor penguins, deploy tracking devices, seabird photo-ID
- Day 6: Fieldwork activities, with farewell dinner
- Day 7: Departure
HOW YOU WILL HELP
Map penguin colony and monitor penguin pairs
The first team of the year will help immensely with setting up the project for the season, walking the entire penguin colony, mapping the location of every nest and taking a census of the penguins. You’ll also help the researchers tag penguins. The first team will also help pick about 50 breeding pairs to track throughout the study. The remaining teams will return to these penguins’ nests every day to monitor their behavior and count the number of eggs and hatchlings at each nest.
Deploy tracking devices
Beginning when penguin chicks are about two weeks old (mid- to late November), teams will help safely attach tracking devices that record the penguins’ every move in the water. They’ll also make sure to get those devices back once penguins return from their foraging trips.
Enter and analyze data and identify petrels
You’ll help log the critical observational data you collect and learn how to analyze the videos and graphs from the tracking devices. The scientists are also researching another important ocean bird—the giant petrel. You’ll help them sort through the images they’ve collected and help with census from images.
Volunteers who join the October teams will conduct critical surveys of nesting parents before their eggs hatch, providing the scientists with invaluable data on breeding success. Hatchlings start to emerge in early November. All teams will work with and amongst hundreds of adult penguins.
Field conditions and research needs can lead to changes in the itinerary and activities. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.
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