Penguin Team Field Updates: OCT. 28th

Camp Set up at Crozier also known as “Camp Huddle”

Gitte’s penguin team successfully arrived at Cape Crozier on October the 28th. Our field notes may be a little behind as they are being carried out by gracious visitors who are kind enough to carry our messages back to civilization. Early in the morning the penguin team took flight in a helicopter piloted by Heff a stoic man with many years of experience flying in Antarctica. The flight from Scott Base to Cape Crozier took about 30 minutes and we had incredible views of Mt. Erebus (12,448 ft, 3794 m). We started to gain elevation as we flew over a glacier and wrapped around a bend. Heff agilely redirected the helicopter as we dropped off the glacier and back onto the sea ice. That is when Parker and David saw their first Antarctic penguin: the mighty Adele. The land side of Cape Crozier happens to be the location of one of the largest Adele colonies. I would love to google the exact number maybe those of you reading this blog can fill that bit of information for me (my best guess is ~250,000). We also saw our first emperor penguins walking and tobogganing on the ice (more information will follow with regards to how amazing these penguins are in future updates). I digress, Heff quickly turned the helicopter and the location of our Camp was first seen. Camp Huddle is located in a “finger” (a small cove located between where fast ice and sea ice meet) of fast ice. This location is relatively protected compared to other areas but the surrounding deep blue ice indicates that this area does receive heavy winds but not on a nice day like today. The weather was perfect for setting up our camp with high visibility and relatively warm temperatures at -7 degrees Celsius.

We set up camp five polar haven tents for each of five members of the crew including Sam who is helping us establish a safe camp and walk way to the colony. We erected a medium “Polar Haven” which has a heater and is the area we will be spending most of our time when it is cold. We a great kitchen set up and a nice table that serves multiple uses such dining table and data entry portal. We also set up a bathroom tent which is a classic Scott Tent. Since we are camping on sea ice all of the structures we have at Camp Huddle required us to drill holes on the ice and anchor each corner via “V thread” method as Gitte is demonstrating in the adjacent image. The basic concept of V threading requires two drill holes that connect in the ice. A rope is then place through the opening of both drilled holes and is fastened to the corner and sides of each structure. If you thought setting up a tent was difficult on land, consider drilling 230 V thread and hand tying each knot. Luckily the weather was great and we did not have to set up camp in the wind. Cape Crozier is notoriously experiencing some of the most extreme weather on the planet. Camp Huddle is fasted to the ice at Cape Crozier and we are ready to start our penguin captures within the next few days. We had a wonderful first dinner and headed to bed exhausted and excited to finally arrive at our destination.

 

#Natgeoexplorer #NIWA

Huddled Up,

Penguin Field Crew

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Flight to Scott Base Postponed: 10/16/19

Flight to Scott Base Postponed: 10/16/19

Fingers crossed for a Friday departure to Scott Base

The Cape Crozier Penguin Team arrived safe and sound in Christchurch New Zealand where we are waiting for our flight to Scott Base, Antarctica. We were scheduled to fly today, however we have been delayed due to a cracked windshield on the plane. Currently our flight has been postponed until Friday Oct. 18th as we are waiting for a new windshield to arrive from the USA.

In the meantime, the penguin team has been busy planning our field logistics so that we may hit the ground running on Friday. Today we are setting up our data-logging tags that will measure the GPS location, acceleration and fine-scale foraging behaviors of chick-rearing emperor penguins. Stay tuned for more information about the tags we will be using this season.

Proactively in standby,

Emperor Penguin Field Crew

 

C-17 Aircraft
Penguin Crew Datalogger Huddle

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Arrived in Christchurch New Zealand: 10/14/19

Arrived in Christchurch New Zealand: 10/14/19

Emperor Penguin Crew Lands In Christchurch New Zealand

The Penguin Team has landed in New Zealand after a 12 hour long flight from San Francisco to Aukland and a quick (1.5 hr) connecting flight to Christchurch. While in Christchurch we visited the International Antarctic Center where we were issued our clothing field gear for this season. A New Zealand rep "Lou" helped us out with our clothing selections that include warm marino wool base layers, 6 pairs of gloves, 4 hats, two pair of boots, fleece pants and down jackets, and incredibly warm survival gear. We are ready for our trip scheduled to leave at 9am on Wednesday October 19th.

Warm and ready for the Ice,

Emperor Penguin Field Crew

 

 

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Daphne Shen

Daphne Shen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I graduated from Cornell University in 2015 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences (Marine Biology concentration). During my undergraduate studies, I assisted with various research projects including acoustic analysis of elephant calls with the Bioacoustics Research Program and analysis of corals to determine prevalence and severity of pathogens in the Caribbean sea fan. It was a field course that I took about the anatomy and function of marine vertebrates that convinced me that I wanted to work with marine megafauna and contribute to wildlife conservation efforts.

After graduating, I worked with the National Park Service at Fire Island National Seashore primarily monitoring piping plovers and other threatened and endangered species, collaring deer with radio collars, and conducting surveys of horseshoe crabs and colonial waterbirds. I spent several years as a stranding technician at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, doing rescue, rehabilitation, and release of marine mammals and sea turtles in New York. I gained a lot of hands on experience doing husbandry and clinical work with various species of cetaceans, pinnipeds, and sea turtles during this time. Most recently, I worked with the NPS at Padre Island National Seashore's Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery, documenting/tagging nesting females, excavating nests and protecting hatchlings, and rescuing stranded sea turtles.

I joined the Vertebrate Ecology Lab under the guidance of Dr. Gitte McDonald in Fall 2019 and am excited to work with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and learn all about west coast marine life.

 

Antarctica Preparations II: 09/15/2019

Antarctica Preparations II: 09/15/2019

Building a cost effective time-depth recorder to track fine-scale penguin Foraging Behavior

We developed our own animal-worn datalogging tags that measure the fine-scale diving behavior of marine predators. Datalogging tags are an integral tool to studying marine predator diving behavior because they allows us to document animals where we are unable to follow them on their foraging trips.   These tags measure an animal's precise location, fine-scale movement and acceleration, temperature of the water, and the depth the animal dive (down to 1000 meters). These tags will be used to document emperor penguin diving behavior and track their movements while they forage at-sea. Emperor penguins are known to dive to great depths (564 meters) and for long durations (>27 minutes) in search of prey. Once the penguins return to the colony to feed their chick we will remove the tag and download the data from their journeys.

Datalogging tags can be purchased however they are very expensive and can be a barrier for many students and researchers. In collaboration with Dr. Birgitte McDonald, Katie Harrington, James Fahlbusch, and Parker Forman we developed a cost-effective and open source datalogging tag that is one third of the cost of current tags on the market. This open source datalogging technology will put high resolution, low cost, and customizable tags in the hands of more researchers.

Dive On,

Emperor Penguin Field Crew

 

 

Custom Built Datalogging Tag: "Tapered Flipper TDR".
Attaching the pressure sensor to the tag.

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Sierra Fullmer

Sierra Fullmer

Fullner Sierra

I graduated from the University of Miami in the winter of 2017 with BSMAS degrees in Marine Science and Biology. While there, I had multiple unique opportunities, including leading acoustic research working to determine the vocal repertoire of the nocturnal owl monkey and studying while living in the Galapagos Islands with locals for 3 months. Much of my free time was spent coordinating trainings and stranding responses as the Stranding Coordinator for their Marine Mammal Rescue Team. These experiences drove my interest in the marine mammal field and led me to pursue many internship and learning opportunities in animal care. I had the opportunity to work alongside a diversity of species, including beluga whales, bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, river otters and multiple species of alcids. With each new species, I became more interested in the specialization required to survive within their different environments.

My desire to study and contribute to new knowledge of marine mammals led me to an internship with the UCSC Joseph Long Marine Laboratory’s Pinniped Cognition and Sensory Systems Lab. There I gained more hands-on, dual experience in both animal care and cooperative research and gained an even greater interest in the research field. I knew that in order to be better equipped to find answers to my questions, and share this information with others, I needed to improve my background in research and scientific writing by returning for my graduate studies.

I joined the MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab in the fall of 2019, and am looking forward to establishing the topic of my thesis research throughout this year. Meanwhile, I will be actively supporting the Marine Mammal Stranding Network as a stranding responder and assisting my fellow lab members with their areas of research.

Field Season Preparations: 08/30/19

Field Season Preparations: 08/30/19

Shipping our field gear to Antarctica

Although our field season is still 6 weeks away, preparations are in full gear. This last month we have been busy ordering research supplies.  We somehow managed to fit all the gear into 4 boxes that are now waiting to be shipped to Antarctica. One thing that is a little different, is we have to separate gear into items that can and can not be frozen so when they get to Antarctica they are stored properly for our arrival.  Students in the Lab are happy that we are sending this gear out so that they may have a little more room.

Signed Sealed and Awaiting Delivery To Antarctica,

Emperor Penguin Field Crew

 

 

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Antarctica Preparations I: 08/10/2019

Antarctica Preparations I: 08/10/2019

Penguin goods & safe handling procedures

Avian ecologist  have always used hoods as a method to cover the heads of the bird species they study. These hoods cover the eyes of the animal and reduce their stress while researchers take measurements such as weight, wing and bill length, and blood samples. Birds can be very sensitive to sudden movements, noises and changes in light and hoods are used to reduce these sensitivities by covering their eyes and ears. Once the hoods are placed over the bird’s head they quickly become more calm. Placing a hood on the bird creates a safe and comfortable environment for the subject while biological measurements are taken.

In preparation for our upcoming trip to Antarctica (October 2019) we have sewn our very own emperor penguin hoods. Each of these hoods has been hand made out of durable, soft, very thin and breathable dark fabric. These penguin hoods have a comfortable neck strap that allows us to adjust the fit of the hood per the penguin’s liking. There is an opening at the tip of the hoods that allows for the bill of the penguin to fit through and increases airflow for ease of breathing. The hoods are placed on the heads of the penguin similar to what it would look like if you placed a sock puppet on your hand (as displayed by Parker in the adjacent image). An eye cutout was placed on one of the hoods to display the approximate location of where the penguin eye would be located under the hood.

We are very excited to share our preparation processes as we get our gear ready for our trip to Antarctica. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on our penguin preparation: tag development, weight harness manufacturing, and more information on our upcoming trip.

Safety First,

Emperor Penguin Field Crew

 

Handcrafted penguin hoods.
Parker holding a penguin hood.

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Jennifer Tackaberry

Jennifer Tackaberry

I graduated from Colby College with a degree in Biology way back in 2004. I soon discovered my passion for large whale research and by 2006 I was working full-time in the field. Most of my research focuses on humpback whales, but also includes all large baleen whales found in the same study area (right, blue, fin, sei, and minke whales). I joined the Center for Coastal Studies’ (CCS) Humpback Whale Studies Program and Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team in 2010. While working at CCS, I became one in only five women in the US permitted to lead disentanglement responses on baleen whale, except for right whales, and responded to over 50 cases of large whales and sea turtles entangled in fishing gear. Although I loved my job, I knew I had to return to school to gain the analytical and writing skills required to pursue my research interests.

While looking for a graduate program, I moved to the West Coast with my husband in 2017 and began working with Cascadia Research Collective (CRC). I was able to continue my research on baleen whales, but expand my experience to West Coast populations. Since joining CRC, I have covered almost the entire coastline of Washington, Oregon, and California while collecting data about baleen whale populations and participating in many disentanglement responses. I am lucky that I can continue working with CRC as I begin my graduate work at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

I joined the Vertebrate Ecology Lab in the fall of 2018 under the guidance of Dr. Alison Stimpert and Dr. Gitte McDonald. My thesis is focused on the feeding ecology of humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine and is funded by the Volgenau Foundation. I will be using data from archival digital tags from Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary tagging project and CCS’s long-term humpback whale population dataset to determine the effect of demography on the feeding ecology and cooperative behavior of humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine. I look forward to gaining the skills I need to progress in this field and continuing to participate in research projects with my colleagues on both coasts.

Parker Forman

Parker Forman

I have diverse interests in the field of ecology spanning from ornithology, behavioral ecology, leading expeditions at remote field sites, to document emerging populations of seals and sea lions. Curiosity for the natural world is the impetus which motivates me to seek out answers to patterns observed in nature. In Fall 2018, I joined the Vertebrate Ecology Lab under the guidance of Dr. Gitte McDonald. My thesis is focused on individual variation in emperor penguin diving behavior.

I obtained BAs in Environmental Science and Sociology in 2013 from the University of California Santa Cruz. Both majors were essential in sculpting my unique perspective in integrating human and ecological aspects to produce effective policy measures, and reduce human impacts on the environment. Following my undergraduate career, I started working as a biological field technician where I gained hands on field experience working on many demographic studies with an array of  marine and terrestrial vertebrates including Northern spotted owls, Northern elephant seals, Steller sea lions and Northern fur seals. These experiences allowed me to live and work in many remote locations including the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, Maui, the Channel Islands, Año Nuevo, King Range National Conservation Area, Point Reyes National Seashore, Olympic National Park. Along the way I had the privilege of leading many field teams at a variety of agency and non-profit institutions. I look forward to developing and contributing to scientific discovery and conservation efforts.