Just as Habitat for Humanity crews help build houses for people who need shelter, Dee Boersma’s team in late September built 120 “condominiums” for penguins. The trio created holes just large enough to serve as nests along the volcanic shoreline of three islands in the Galápagos and several smaller islets.
Because of continuous warm temperatures at the equator, Galápagos penguins need shaded nests to breed. There are some mangroves, which grow in saline coastal conditions, but few other trees or shrubs along the coast to provide shade, so the birds use crevices in the rocks, lava tubes or similar spaces to find relief from the heat and protection from predators.
“Our whole goal is to increase the population of Galápagos penguins, and the way to do that is to make sure that when conditions are good, when they’re not food challenged, that all of them will be able to breed,” Boersma said.
Galápagos penguins are the only penguin species whose range includes a bit of the Northern Hemisphere. Boersma began studying them 40 years ago while a doctoral student at Ohio State University. Since then, she has seen the population decline steadily – it is possible that fewer than 2,000 remain. The penguin species is one of two listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“One of the biggest problems is the introduced species of predators,” including pigs, dogs, cats and rats, Boersma said. “We went to lengths to build nests in places where there aren’t introduced predators.”
Habitat also has declined, she said, and new nests are needed if the population is to stabilize. While some of the same nests from 40 years ago are still in use, others have simply disappeared because of erosion and volcanic activity.
Boersma’s joint project with Parque Nacional Galápagos included Burr Heneman of the Commonweal Ocean Policy Program and boat captain Godfrey Merlen and his crew from Puerto Ayora in the Galápagos.
Using local lava, they built 100 shaded nests in clusters that are relatively close together, and 20 nests that are farther away, in case some penguins prefer to be more isolated. The human-built nests are virtually indistinguishable from natural holes, Boersma said. The work received financial support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the UW.
The Galápagos are part of Ecuador, located in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles from the South American mainland. Most of the islands and surrounding waters are protected as a biological marine reserve and national park, and are a United Nations World Heritage site.
Climate cycles can play havoc with Galápagos penguin reproduction. The penguins depend on cold ocean currents that rise to the surface and bring plentiful food. During El Niño years, those currents fail and most marine species have trouble finding food. During La Niña cycles, those rising cold currents increase and bring a plentiful supply of nutrients to support small fish on which the penguins feed.
Boersma hopes the new nesting sites were in place soon enough to have a positive effect as La Niña conditions take hold in the Galápagos and bring plentiful food to the penguins. She saw many penguins feeding and breeding during her recent visit.
“We found everything from eggs to small chicks to near-fledglings because the food is so good because of La Niña,” she said. “The penguins are ready, if the food stays, to begin breeding. The question is will they find these new nest sites in time.”
She expects to return to the Galápagos in February to evaluate the project’s success.
For more information, contact Boersma at 206-616-2185 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
High-resolution images are available through this release at http://uwnews.washington.edu
Vince Stricherz | Newswise Science News
Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH
Joint research project on wastewater for reuse examines pond system in Namibia
19.12.2016 | Technische Universität Darmstadt
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2017 | Life Sciences