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 email@example.com.
High-resolution images are available through this release at http://uwnews.washington.edu
Vince Stricherz | Newswise Science News
Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine