Researchers don’t know exactly how or where penguins get their food, because it happens beneath the ocean. Join a team of scientists making cutting-edge use of technology solve this mystery, which could have important implications 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.
Travelers 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.
Scientists selected this particular colony as the focus of their work because it’s in the center of penguin colonies along the coast of Patagonia. So far, their research has shown that penguins to the north and south of the focal colony seem better fed and healthier, while those to the center have higher chick mortality and generally less healthy chicks.
Their theory? Northern and southern penguins have more nearby food sources than the penguins along the center, which have to swim further expending more energy to get to their distant prey. This means the penguins in the middle colonies are also leaving their chicks unsupervised for longer periods of time, and bringing home fewer meals when they do come back to the colony.
By studying the colony in the middle, scientists can investigate factors that could be helping or harming colonies on either side. They will also study how the food availability and proximity impacts the survival and health of penguin chicks. With this information, these researchers can identify the areas of the ocean that should get government protection to keep essential penguin habitats safe.
Trips run 7 days in duration, and include all meals, shared accommodations, scientist-led training, and assists with the ongoing sustainability of the program. Rates from approximately $2500/person (may fluctuate with currency exchange).