[Video: Hugh Powell wearing a winter hat and coat, and standing in front of a building with a ladder leaning against it]

[Hugh Powell] The last uh few people who are trying to get here at exactly one to um, to get logged on and get their streams refreshed. So just bear with us for a couple of minutes and we’ll start off in a second. Um and uh, as a reminder feel free to enter your comments and questions for the scientists into the chat window at any time. We’ll be saving them up uh and asking them throughout the broadcast. So we’re really excited to have everybody here. Um we’re just going to wait one or two minutes more and make sure everything is working fine, and then we’ll start the full broadcast. 

[Video: Hugh walks out of view, Donna Fraser walks across and then out of view. Hugh returns to view.]

[Hugh] Okay, we are ready to start I believe. Um and people can come in and leave, and go out as your schedule dictates. But my name is Hugh Powell, I’m a science editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And I’m very happy to welcome you all to this broadcast. I’m standing here at about 64 degrees south latitude at Palmer Station, Antarctica, which we’ll introduce you to a little bit, uh in a little bit. 

Um, uh we’ll be talking today with two scientists, a physical oceanographer from Rutgers University, and a penguin ecologist from the Polar Oceans Research Group. And we’ll be showing you uh, we’ll be exploring a penguin colony that’s just off the shore of Palmer Station here. They have a camera there that is uh set up um, and we’ll pan around and show you some penguins, and we’ll get some insight into what they’re doing and how they live their lives. 

So once again thanks to everybody for being here. Um please [wind gust] use the chat window at any time to um, to ask your questions and we’ll save those up and ask them to the scientists throughout the broadcast. I also want to apologize a little bit for the weather [wind gust], we are in Antarctica. Um today the wind came up [wind gust], it’s blowing at about 45 miles an hour, well maybe [inaudible because of wind gust] five miles an hour off the glacier from the north [wind gust]. We’re in a sheltered spot by the south side of the building here, but you may hear the wind gusts and I apologize for that. We’ll be monitoring the chat so if it gets too bad uh we can always move our location a little bit [wind gust] if you’re willing to bear with us. Um so uh, without further ado let me introduce the scientists [wind gust] that we’ll be talking with today. Um that’s Dr. Josh Kohut from Rutgers University. He’s uh here on my right, 

[Video: Hugh moves to his left and Dr. Josh Kohut moves into view on his right]

and [wind gust] this here is Donna Fraser, 

[Video: Hugh moves to his right and Donna Fraser moves into view on his left]

a penguin biologist from uh the Polar Oceans Research Group, lives in Sheridan, Montana. So uh before we go and take a look at the penguin cam, let’s just have a word from Josh about the work you do, and the project that’s going on here. 

[Video: Josh moves closer to the camera, and Donna moves out of view]

[Josh] Sure, thank you very much, Hugh. As you mentioned, I’m a physical oceanographer. And one of uh many scientists that are down here this year, and for many years, looking at the whole ecology of the system here. One of the things that’s very exciting about this project in particular is that we’re looking at all aspects from the ocean, the way it moves, the temperature, the change in fronts uh with the currents, how that [wind gust] affects the entire food web. How it collects the phytoplankton that are the base of the food web. The zooplankton here meaning krill, as they um feed on that phytoplankton. 

And then finally the Adelie penguins who you will meet today that are feeding on those krill. And we have many different scientists that are working on all aspects of that entire food web to try and understand [wind gust] why penguins forage the way they do. What are the decisions that they’re making as they go out to feed, particularly here now while they’re raising their chicks 

[Video: Hugh nods]

before they crèche and then finally go out on their own. Uh and so you’ll hear a little bit about that through the broadcast. Uh if you have any questions about the science that we’re doing myself and Donna Fraser 

[Video: Donna pokes her head into view briefly]

are happy to answer them. And we’re very excited to be working with you uh for this next hour to introduce you to this amazing place where we get to work and do our science. 

[Hugh] Great. Thanks, Josh. And here’s Donna Fraser from the Polar Oceans Research Group. 

[Video: Josh moves back and Donna walks into view]

She’s been uh working at Palmer Station uh since about 1989, and uh has done a ton of work on penguins and also on southern giant petrels and other seabirds of the area. Um so she’ll be able to answer most of your questions. 

[Donna] I hope so. 

[Hugh] And Donna do you want to say a few words about Palmer Station? 

[Donna] Absolutely. Hi my name is Donna Fraser, thanks for the introduction Hugh, and Josh. 

[Video: Hugh moves out of view then reappears in the back, mostly off camera. He moves out of view again.]

It’s great to be here today, it’s always great to be at Palmer Station. Uh I work in the seabird ecology component of the long-term ecological research, LTER program. And also collaborating with Josh

[Video: Donna turns to Josh and touches his shoulder]

[wind gust] on the CONVERGE [wind gust] program, so it’s fantastic that we’re able to link our various disciplines and get some answers to these questions. 

[Video: Donna and Josh look at each other and Josh nods]

Um, all right so without further ado, I’ll introduce you to the Palmer Station area. 

[ Video: Hugh walks back into view]

[Hugh] I’m just going to step in for a second, Donna, 

[Donna laughs]

[Hugh] because we just got, and I apologize for this interruption. We’re just going to bump up the levels on the microphone a little bit, because a lot of you have been writing in to say that it’s hard to hear. So just let me know if that’s better through chat and then we’ll give you a quick tour of the station. How does that sound? 

[Donna] Perfect. I hope. 

[Hugh] All right. Let’s give it a go. 

[Donna] Okay, so starting our spinning tour of Palmer Station,

[Video: Donna starts rotating the camera and two additional men are visible looking at a computer]

um here you see the local audience. Hi, guys. 

[Video: The men look up, smile, and wave]

That’s our pit crew. Um and continuing on I’m gonna let the camera adjust. 

[Video: Camera continues moving. The edge of the building, a covered area, water, and ice are visible.]

What you’re seeing now is Arthur Harbor, and the ice beyond that is the Marr Ice Piedmont. It’s a fancy way to say coastal glacier. The Marr Ice Piedmont actually covers southwest Anvers Island, and it’s named for James Marr who was a marine biologist on one of Shackleton’s expeditions and later base commander at Port Lockroy. A little bit, I’ll um, into Arthur Harbor here. 

[Video: Camera moves to show more of Arthur Harbor]

Arthur Harbor was named for one of the Falklands Islands governors in the 1950s. And actually um Palmer Station was, the predecessor to Palmer Station was Old Palmer, which was part of the British Antarctic’s um, bases, and Falkland Islands dependency surveys, which is how we got some of our local names. Um continuing a slow spin here,

[Video: Camera moves to show more of the harbor, some islands in the distance, and additional buildings]

you can see Arthur Harbor, some of the islands in the background that are about a mile to two miles away. And I believe you can see Torgersen Island. We’ll be talking a lot more about Torgersen Island, but that’s one of the islands where the Adélie penguins nest. Beyond that Litchfield Island, Norsel Point. Um again our focal area. Ooh, sorry. Um we do get whales quite frequently in Arthur Harbor, and it’s also a place where visiting ships can anchor. All right, now on to a little bit about Palmer Station. 

[Video: Camera moves and shows more buildings]

As Hugh mentioned I have worked here for quite a while, and the um. Palmer Station has a maximum capacity of about forty four people. It’s the smallest of the three US stations. And it was completed, it started out like I mentioned. Old Palmer was given to us by the British Antarctic Survey, and then rebuilt into bigger, um bigger and better Palmer Station, completed in 1970. 

The Palmer Station is composed of three or four main buildings. What you see right now is the Biolab building, that’s half of berthing. That’s also where we have our dining room, kitchen, and let’s see some of the water storage. Um, fuel tanks. Everything is duplicated in both of the buildings just for safety’s sake. Um that right in front of you is the carpenter shop, and it’s pretty important to realize that we are 800 miles from the nearest hardware store, which means we have to have skilled craftsmen and tradespeople here in order to fix things that break, to construct whatever is necessary on site. 

[Video: Birds are visible in the distance flying over the harbor]

So we have to be pretty self-reliant within Palmer Station. We get a ship that ties up if you can see the flagpole in that, I think you should be able to see the flagpole. Yeah, um right in front of that is our pier. That’s where our research vessel Laurence M. Gould will tie up. And we get the research vessel in about every six weeks for resupply and to do scientific cruises. 

[Video: Camera moves to show other buildings and land jutting into the harbor]

Swinging a little bit further [sing-song voice] is Bonaparte Point. That’s the closest land, um and right there is Hero Inlet. 

[Video: Camera shows supports of the roof structure, part of the roof, Bonaparte Point, and icebergs in the distance] 

And that’s named for the Hero, which was our original research vessel up until the mid-1980s. And if you can see way in the distance there have a look at that gigantic iceberg. That has been teetering around for a while, and it is most likely grounded. As you know, um three quarters to ninety percent of that iceberg is likely underwater. And I would say it’s about seventy or ninety [wind gust] feet above the water. It is quite big. And that is sitting [inaudible because of wind gust] more than half [inaudible] can imagine how gigantic it is. And that is about the conclusion of our Palmer tour. I’m going to swing you back around slowly. 

[Video: Camera moves back the other way to original position] 

So that you don’t get seasick. 

[Hugh laughs]

[Video: Hugh comes into view]

[Hugh] That’s great. Great job. Thank you, uh Donna. 

[Video: Donna is visible on camera]

As I said Donna has spent many, many a year here. She’s very familiar with the station and its history. 

[Video: Donna moves out of view and Josh moves into view]

So, so yes. Just before we get to the, the camera, I just want to just go over, and ask Josh and Donna to just describe briefly what is a day like [wind gust] for each of you. Um how do you do your work in Antarctica, and what kind of preparations do you make?

[Video: Hugh moves out of view]

[Donna] All right. 

[Josh] Sure, it’s a good question because there’s really actually a hard way to answer that. There’s no typical day in Palmer Station. You heard Hugh when he introduced the call today about the weather. Today any plans that we may have had two or three days ago are [wind gust ] put on hold. They’re thrown out because we woke up this morning and the winds were very high, uh right now we’re having gusts to 40, 45 miles an hour. 

And so under those conditions we can’t go out in the field and take the data and do the experiments that we need to do. And so we have to be very flexible. For us, when we get up in the morning the first thing we’re doing is checking the weather. And that’s going to dictate what we can and can’t do. And based on the weather it may be no time on the water, or it may be 12 to 15 hours on the water. It really depends on the weather. 

[Donna] Yeah, that’s absolutely correct. And today is a good example of hurry up and wait. Also everything that we had planned for today gets put on to tomorrow’s agenda, which will be, make for a big day. What we do in the morn—a typical day for us is to assess the weather, as Josh has mentioned, and then [wind gust] see what we can do. If it’s not too wet we can get out and do work on different species. But any day typically involves changing transmitters out, weighing and measuring chicks, and doing various checks of the outlying islands. That’s pretty typical for us [wind gust].

[Hugh] Great, uh, so we had a question. Uh, we had a question from a viewer about is there a time of year Palmer at, when Palmer is inaccessible? 

[Donna] Um, that, that’s really a good question because we are the most, in the summer we’re, I think that we’re the most remote of the three stations because of how long [wind gust] ship to get in, and we have no air traffic here. The only time that it would be completely inaccessible is if sea ice prevented a ship from entering Arthur Harbor. And it can be difficult, but a good sized icebreaker could get into the harbor most times of the year. 

[Josh] And people do live here year round. 

[Donna] Absolutely, Palmer Station is open year-round. Um open and operational. There are different science projects that are better to be done at different times of the year. Fish research typically goes on in autumn, seabird ecology goes on from October to April, and then glider work obviously when there’s open water. 

[Josh] Yeah, yeah again it’s, it’s ice dependent. We’ve had over the last two years July and August the peak of the winter here, the pier has been very accessible. It’s been open and the issues have been more in the spring when sea ice further south begins to break up, and starts getting moved up north by the wind. And so it varies quite a bit from year to year in terms of how accessible the station is. 

[Hugh] And uh, one last question from, from a viewer about uh, do you grow your own food here or how do you get your provisions?

[Josh] So that, the there’s no food that’s grown locally. At McMurdo Station, one of the larger stations that the US operates, uh there used to be produce that was grown in a greenhouse. Um but what this station has about like Donna mentioned [wind gust] every six weeks or so uh the ship the Laurence M Gould uh comes to the pier. It brings people as well as supplies. So there are food supplies here that are brought in. What we look forward to most are the freshies, the fresh fruits and vegetables that come from Chile before the ship gets here. 

There are, though, stores of food here on station, non-perishables, that will last for about a year and a half with no resupply. And so there is quite a bit of contingency planning in terms of food for the people on station. 

[Donna] Great question. 

[Hugh] All right, so um thank you very much. 

[Josh] You’re welcome. 

[Hugh] Uh let’s, so now let’s go and actually take a look at Torgersen Island, um with the uh, using the camera that we have mounted there. 

[Video: Hugh comes into view]

If you remember that’s the island just across the inlet from Palmer Station. So we’re going to cross over there now. 

[Video: View changes to Torgersen Island with penguins on the shore in the foreground, Arthur Harbor, and Palmer Station across the water]

You should be seeing it. I’m gonna bring up our scientists so you can still see them. 

[Vide: Smaller view of scientists in the lower left corner on top of the Torgersen Island video]

And I think Donna can explain what we’re seeing here. 

[Donna] Absolutely. Let me get closer.

[Hugh] Both the penguins in the front and us in the background. 

[Donna] All right, fantastic. Thank you, Hugh. What you’re looking at right now is um Palmer, Palmer Station in the background. You can see the antenna towers, and the buildings, and I think a fuel tank or two. No, or not. And um our pier. And in the foreground is a colony of Adélie penguins on Torgersen island. It’s about a half mile away, and right now penguin chicks are in the crèche phase, which means that they are in loose, like nursery groups. They’re, they’re, they’re not sitting at specific nest sites any longer. Um, they’re in groups, you’ll see that in a second. 

Um and as Hugh has already mentioned, I think Josh mentioned too, today’s really a blustery day, there’s high winds, we’ve had quite a bit of rain. So you will see dirty, muddy penguins. How about a closer look, Hugh? 

[Hugh] Yeah, let’s take a look in, in just a moment. 

[Donna] Great. 

[Hugh] Can you tell us how many uh penguins are at, on Torgersen Island? And how many are in the area? 

[Donna] Abs—

[Hugh] And what kind are they? 

[Donna] Absolutely, those are all Adélie penguins in the area. The ones that you’re looking at right now are Adélie penguins. We also have chinstraps and gentoo penguins in the area. And what? Okay, and um in the Palmer Station area just in the five islands surrounding the station we have about 2,000 pairs, of which um, I would say about a thousand of them nest on Torgersen Island. So roughly half of our local population. And um, other, gentoos and chinstraps. Gentoos are increasing, but they nest about eight miles from station. Chinstraps are, were increasing, they’re pretty stable now at about 350 to 400 pairs. 

[Hugh] Yeah so, um. We’ve actually had a couple of questions 

[Donna] Great. 

[Hugh] from people who are watching about the difference between Adélie penguins, chinstrap penguins, and gentoo penguins. And, I think they’re the so-called brushy-tailed penguins. 

[Video: Bird flies through above the penguins]

[Donna] Absolutely, that’s a really good question. The three different Pygoscelis penguins, gentoos, chinstraps, and Adélies, they’re all the same genus, they’re just different species. So they’re closely related, they’re about the same size, roughly 18 inches high, they weigh between eight and ten pounds. Gentoos can be a little bit bigger than that, about 12 pounds. And they will have, Adélies are very, they’re the true Antarctic penguin. Gentoos are sub-Antarctic, but they’re moving into our area with more frequency. And chinstraps kind of, they straddle that boundary. 

[Video: Main camera pans and zooms in on Adélie penguins. About 30 penguins are visible. Some are preening.]

We’re at the southern end of the chinstrap penguin range, and gentoos again are sort of expanding their range southward as the climate changes along the peninsula [wind gust]. How about this great view of Torgersen here? That is fantastic. So what you’re seeing now is a little bit better view of Torgersen Island. And you can see the adults, those are the ones with the white front and the black chin. 

[Video: An adult penguin stands with head raised and flippers flapping]

In the very back of that colony there’s an adult with its head sticking straight up in the air, flippers are waving. That is an ecstatic display. Basically that, that adult is advertising territory ownership, saying come look at me. It’s an odd time of the year for them to be doing that, but oftentimes this, they’re not, that that’s not likely a nesting bird. But what they’re doing is advertising and practicing for next season. Uh the chin, the chicks in there are going to be the dark, dark gray ones. And as I mentioned earlier we’ve had quite a bit of rain. And so you can see that guano gravy that we call it. Comes back on our boots quite often, and our pants, and our faces, and our hands. But that’s uh, we almost wished that we had a scratch-and-sniff screen for you because it stinks. 

[Hugh and Josh laugh]

So let’s see, what else, what else can we point out here? 

[Hugh] Yeah so, that’s great. And we’re gonna give Donna a chance,

[Donna] Yeah. 

[Hugh] to catch your breath because we have another question [wind gust] in from another school [wind gust] asking Josh the difference between a glacier and an iceberg. So we saw the glacier behind us in one direction, and the iceberg off to sea. What’s the difference? 

[Josh] Yeah, so the, the glaciers are attached, they’re on land. Um they are very, very old ice. Here we saw the introduction to the glacier off Arthur Harbor. That’s covering the entire island that we’re on. Um what happens is the glaciers migrate, they actually move very, very slowly. And these large icebergs, there’s icebergs of all sizes. But the one that Donna introduced you to that’s off in the distance, that was part of a glacier. 

And what happens is as these glaciers migrate, parts of the glacier actually break off. We call it calving. And they actually drift in the ocean, they move around with the ocean currents, and they can be very large. It’s not unusual to see what we would call a tabular iceberg to be several miles in diameter, uh as they go across. 

The iceberg that you saw off to the distance here uh is probably about the size of a large building, a school building or something like that. And so that was once part of a glacier along the peninsula, and it’s broken off and is now moving with the currents um, around the area. 

[Donna] There you go. 

[Hugh] Great, um and we have a question from a kindergarten class. Thanks for watching. They want to know how many eggs can a penguin lay? 

[Donna] Great question. All right. Um, a penguin typically lays two eggs. Sometimes if one of those eggs get lost, gets lost, like if it rolls out of the nest or if a skua steals it, sometimes it can actually lay a third egg if that happens pretty soon after the second egg is laid. 

And the reason that it has to happen soon is because, especially with Adélie penguins, the female, as soon as she lays that second egg will actually leave the nest and take the first foraging trip. The male has to sit on the nest and incubate for that first foraging, for her first foraging trip and stay there. Yeah so two eggs. 

[Hugh] Yeah, um and another great question by somebody who is watching this feed you can see some green in the background on this view uh right here. And they’re asking is that moss, and do plants grow in Antarctica? 

[Donna] Super question, absolutely. Um, you want me to answer that? 

[Josh] Yeah. 

[Donna] Uh, okay. 

[Hugh and Josh laugh]

That, you are looking at moss there. Fantastic, I’m glad that you mentioned that. Because a lot of people think that there is no plant life here. And actually we have two flowering plants on the Antarctic Peninsula, a pearlwort and a type of grass called Deschampsia. And um that is moss right there. There is also grass and pearlwort on Torgersen Island. And actually kelp gulls, giant petrels, and skuas will use the different types of grasses and mosses as part of their nest material. Penguins like you’re seeing right [wind gust] there. That camera on Torgersen Island. 

[Video: One penguin hops up onto a rock]

All of our penguins here actually use rocks for nesting materials. So they don’t use the plant material, but other bird species do. 

[Hugh] Great um, and we’re still. Questions are flooding in over here, so thank you for entering them all. Uh I think the next thing that I want to just ask uh Donna is can you describe what your research project is doing, um and why you go to these islands to look at these penguins? 

[Donna] Absolutely. Okay, absolutely. One of the things that we’re doing is we’re using seabirds as indicators of change in the environment. So we look at different markers um, within their chronology or within their diets to tell us how they’re doing. One of the things is when they initiate their nest. When they hatch or lose their eggs or chicks. What influences the chicks growth? We do different diet studies so we’re looking at what they eat during the season. How that changes between the seasons and within the season, actually. Specifically penguins. 

And then we also look at the birds that influence penguin survivals like um, giant petrels and brown skuas. So we’ll look at that. One of the other really important aspects of our studies is looking at foraging trip durations. And we do that a couple of ways. One of the ways is with satellite transmitters, and once we attach a satellite transmitter to a penguin’s back, we just use tape, it’s uh painless to them, very quick. But that helps us link into the research that we’re doing with Josh. And maybe Josh, you want to talk? Maybe Josh can talk about how our foraging trips can help you look at your data? 

[Josh] Sure. 

[Hugh] Yeah and I’ll just interject that you can find, if we don’t answer your question, you can find a lot more information below the video feed. Maybe after this video call is over. And there’s a link there to a blog that I’ve been writing along with my photographer colleague Chris Linder about all the research that’s been done, done here. So anything you’re interested in that we don’t cover completely here there’s a good chance you can find it there. So Josh maybe you can tell us what your work 

[Video: One penguin chases another, they move quickly into view and across, partially on their bellies, then out of view] 

in the ocean does and what it tells us about what the penguins are doing. 

[Josh] Sure yeah one of the exciting things that’s allowing us to link to the great research that Donna and her team are doing is to look at those penguin trips. We’re actually using the penguins to tell us where the important parts of the ocean are that we need to measure. And so by looking at the tracks that we get from the transmitters on the backs of the penguins, we can send in our oceanographic tools. We have underwater robots that we call gliders, we have moorings 

[Video: Penguin moves quickly into view, runs across, and out of view]

that we put out there with instruments that measure things like temperature, salinity of the water, that also measure how much phytoplankton and krill are in the water. And so we can start looking at how the penguins are deciding where to go, and actually letting the penguins tell us where to go. And so that’s allowing us to address questions that we couldn’t address otherwise if we didn’t have this valuable data on the tags on the penguins. 

[Hugh] Great. We’re having a few more questions about the life history, and basically how the Adélie penguins make their living. So what kinds of things do they eat? 

[Donna] Okay, that’s a great question because you would think that the, we’re in such an extreme environment, how are they going to make a living? Penguins, the penguins here eat mostly krill, they’ll eat, and krill are the small shrimp-like animals that are abundant in this ocean. And that’s also something that Josh’s instrumentation will pick up on. 

[Video: Camera view moves across the harbor and to a close view of about 15 penguins standing, moving around, and preening. Some are dirty and they are standing in dark red guano.] 

Great. So mostly krill, occasionally fish which is kind of like finding a big old steak nutrition-wise in a bowl of popcorn, as I like to say. And krill is what allows the penguins it, and actually if you look at the color of that, that there guano gravy you’ll see that it’s dark red. And that’s actually what the recycled krill looks like once it comes out of the penguins. 

[Hugh] And somebody was particularly interested, because you mentioned that the males do a lot of incubation while the females after they laid an egg go off and forage. And so how do the males get any food? 

[Donna] Well what they do is one, the male and the female will build, they’ll build their nest, they’ll go through their courtship prior to egg-laying. Once they lay those two eggs, because they’ve been on land for quite a while and the female’s put a lot of energy into those eggs. The female is the one that takes the first incubation shift, and it’s quite long. About ten days more or less. Once she comes back from that feeding trip, then the male gets to take his shift. So then they will trade off during the course of incubation, which is just over a month. 

[Hugh] So they have to fast for a while, go on a diet? 

[Donna] They do, they do. They fast for quite a while. 

[Video: Pair of penguins in the group circling each other and a pile of rocks with heads down]

I might [wind gusts], what you’re seeing on the penguin camera right now is a pair kind of in the center of the view. And they’re doing a little bit of displaying. It looks like they may be thinking about setting up shop for next year. That’s a little bit of a territorial display. You can see that they’re rather dirty. 

[Hugh] Those are the ones that are bending over? 

[Donna] They’re the bending over, and circling around a pile of rocks. Um and then there’s a pair just immediately to their left that was, that were just displaying to each other, their necks in the air. That’s not, that’s not a, that’s a good territorial display, it’s not aggression or anything. 

[Hugh] So is that a mated pair doing that? 

[Donna] That is probably a mated pair doing that. And that other pair is still circling around. And I did see um, a pair of penguins chasing each other. One of the things that comes with this territorial defense you’re seeing, and nest building, and kind of practice for next year is that even though some of these birds are non-breeders they actually defend their territories. 

And that leads to some violent fights, uh where the birds will chase each other off territory. And one pair zipped behind the camera on the last view. So it’s rather interesting to see. And you can see a couple of chicks in that view. They’re huddled together, this is the crèche phase. The chicks are about five weeks old. A couple more weeks, and you can see they’re starting to get a white throat patch there, just that one that shook its head. Um it’s sort of hiding behind a rock, but they’re starting to get their feathers in. 

Once they get all of their feathers in they’re almost ready to move down to the beach and fledge. Fledging is when they’re independent from their parents and their nest. And that happens at about seven to eight weeks of age. You can see a parent, a parent in the back left side of the colony there’s a parent that’s just returned from foraging. And some walking past. A lot of birds are returning now from foraging trips. And you can see that they’re displaying, and getting ready to feed their chicks. 

[Hugh] Great, and the, it’s really interesting to see this pair that seems to be thinking about nesting, it seems like the wrong time of year for that. And, and also what is with the pile of rocks? 

[Donna] They’re practicing, that’s just good practice for next season. They may be young birds, or they may be birds that net, attempted to nest and lost this season. But they’ll actually pick up rocks, and make piles, and get ready for next year. So what you’re seeing is a lot of practice, and I, there’s some suspicion that that practice will help them be in a better, better position next year, like they’re a little bit trained up and a little more ready for what they’re going to encounter. 

[Hugh] Because these are pretty long-lived animals, is that true? 

[Donna] They are, absolutely. Adélie penguin, uh approximate wild life span would be 10 to 12 years. In captivity closer to 20. And I think the longevity record that we had was a blonde penguin here, uh blonde instead of black feathers, she had kind of a light brown or blonde. And she I think was closer to 18 years,

[Hugh] Wow. 

[Donna] so that was, but that was a standout. That was kind of unusual, so I would say average is 10 to 12 years. 

[Hugh] Great and there are some questions about how you do the work that you do, and in particular people wonder how often you make physical contact with the penguins. 

[Donna] Okay, absolutely. 

[Hugh] What you do. 

[Donna] And that actually, thanks for reminding me here, that’s a great time to remind um everybody that we, nobody here really works alone. What we do, Josh and I. We have these amazing field teams that help us and allow us to do the work that we do. And it’s important to recognize that everything is teamwork all of the time. So we come into contact with the birds uh whenever we outfit them with a transmitter, or whenever we’re removing transmitters, so we um try and limit contact and anything that’s invasive so that we’re not overdoing it. But we handle them just enough to get transmitters on and off, or um to, when we measure and weigh the chicks at fledging. 

[Hugh] And handling penguins is pretty carefully regulated as well. 

[Donna] Absolutely, everything that we do that’s hands-on or that’s potentially um, invasive, like any kind of handling is done all through permits. Everything is done through permits um, through National Science Foundation. And it’s reported to the Antarctic Treaty, so we’re all in compliance with that. 

[Hugh] And even people, other people at Palmer Station have to stay away from the penguins so as not to disturb them? 

[Donna] Yes they do. Yes they do. Part of the ACA. The Antarctic Conservation Act. Is that we have protected areas, and that helps give that buffer to seabirds and marine mammals, and even the plant life. Not that they need space during summer, but so nobody walks on the mosses or grasses. 

And we’re very, very careful when we’re out and about not to disturb anything. Give wide berth to seals that are on land. Even penguins that we, if we don’t need to do anything handling-wise we don’t. 

[Hugh] And when you do handle the penguins, do they put up a fight? How do you? 

[Donna] They are pretty feisty. Yes, they are. They will defend their territories, they’ll defend their nest sites. And they’re extremely strong. So, the safest way to pick a penguin up is just under the flippers. You can see the one center of the webcam there, flippers straight out. And what you would do is aim for what I would call the flipper pits, right under the, where the flipper attaches to the body. 

And it is, and it’s a battle, there, it’s 10 to 12 pounds of muscle. So we have to be very careful. Um, very, very careful the way that we handle penguins so that we don’t ever injure them. And much like your gliders we don’t want to injure our study subjects. 

[Josh] That’s right, yeah. And I think the one thing I could add to that, that Donna mentioned is that we do have these field teams. And there’s a lot of logistics that go on for all the planning. So we have and our teams have planned for two and a half years for what we’re doing this year. And, and that’s uh, it’s, as Donna mentioned we’re 800 miles from the nearest hardware store. And even further from our labs back at our home institutions. And, so it’s important that we plan well in advance so that we make sure that we have all the tools that we need, and we have all the people that we need to complete all this work in the limited time that we’re here. 

[Hugh] Great. Uh, we had a question come in, Josh, that was asking where are the penguins going when they’re foraging and why?

[Josh] Yeah that’s a great question, we have that same question. And that’s actually what we’re after trying to help answer while we’re down here. We see that the penguins sometimes stay very close to the colonies, not going more than a couple kilometers from the colony on their trip. 

And that’s times when we think that the food is obviously much closer, and so they don’t have to travel as far. But there are times when we see the penguins go much further. They could go 10 or 20 kilometers on a round trip, which is a lot of energy for them to, to use to get out there and back to find that food. And what we think they’re doing is they’re looking for particular places where the food is concentrated. 

So if you think about yourself if you’re hungry you want to go out and eat you’re going to go to a restaurant, you’re going to pick a certain spot to go. Well we think the penguins are going to these restaurants offshore that are really being concentrated by the oceanography. We think the currents are pushing foods like phytoplankton and krill together into these swarms, and that’s where the penguins are going. And, and we’re hoping to get some more information on that this year, and test that idea. 

[Donna] Absolutely. 

[Hugh] Okay, so I think we’re going to try to move the camera a little bit so we can see the area that’s kind of between the colony and the sea, 

[Video: Camera view moves to show a rocky area]

and it’s kind of a fun spot where we can get a look at maybe some penguins will walk by if they’re feeling cooperative. 

[Donna] This is definitely spying on them a little bit here. Catching them in the act of returning or leaving. 

[Hugh] Yeah, and perhaps um, Donna you could tell us like what you know about how long they go out for. 

[Donna] Okay, absolutely. That’s a great, that’s a great question, Hugh. Uh, the penguins, penguins that are foraging locally as Josh explained fantastically, 

[Josh laughs]

they’re, they’re mostly trying to find those close restaurants. And um, 

[Video: Camera zooms out to show the water behind the rocky shore]

what we want to see is how easily or how difficult it is to, for them to fill their bellies. And when they’re, when they’re going out and they’re finding a restaurant close by, able to forage close by, they’re only gone for five or six hours. And we can see those foraging trip durations change throughout the course of a season. But what we’ve seen this year is quite a lot of inshore feeding, where they’re actually feeding closer to their colonies and nest sites. And that for them is super beneficial because they’re spent, they’re able to spend quite a bit of time with their chicks, and bringing frequent meals to them. 

[Video: Camera pans right to show the group of penguins from a distance]

It’s great for uh chick growth, it’s super. So they’re, they’re feeding close by and not having to go to, too far. Maybe, the trips I think are getting a little bit longer,

[Josh] Yeah. 

[Donna] like more toward eight or ten hours, so they may be going farther at this time. 

[Josh] Yeah we actually had uh, uh two penguins that were tagged. I think you guys were out there two or three days ago when you were at Biscoe looking at the gentoos. And as soon as the tags were put on the penguins the penguins went to forage, and they headed exactly to where three of our robots were sampling, and so we were pretty excited to see that. 

[Donna] Mmhmm, absolutely. 

[Josh] That we seem to be getting on to something here, to try and learn where these penguins are going and why. 

[Hugh] Yeah so Josh you’ve referred to a couple of times your gliders, your robots. And that’s something that we explain on the blog, you can follow the link that we have at the bottom of the video feed, but I think since we have the expert here with us right now perhaps you could tell just a little bit about what these robots are,

[Video: A penguin walks into view from the right and toward the group. Another penguin walks toward the right in the background.]

and how they work. 

[Josh] Sure, the robots are about six feet long, look like long skinny torpedoes, but they’re actually no propellers, so the penguins, listen to me, the gliders actually move through the water a little similar to a penguin, 

[Donna] That’s true. 

[Josh] when they’re diving at least. But they bring with them oceanographic sensors. 

[Video: A penguin walks into view from the right, closer to the camera, then walks out of view again]

So we get measurements of temperature of the water, salinity of the water, how much phytoplankton is in the water, and they’re basically out there patrolling the areas where the penguins are foraging for up to a month or two months at a time. And we get phone calls from them every two hours. 

They let us know where they are, they send the data back uh so we can understand what ocean looks like where they are now. Um and we can send them new commands. And so right now as we’re talking to you, um there are—how many penguins are tagged right now, about four? 

[Donna] Uh, yeah four. 

[Josh] So there’s four penguins tagged, 

[Video: Camera zooms in on area just to the right of the penguins, with some penguins visible]

and we actually have five robots out there mapping the water around where the penguins are. So it’s a really nice example of how we’re combining transmitter technology on the penguins [wind gust] with a robot technology for the oceanography to try to really understand what’s happening just beyond where we’re standing right now. 

[Donna] Our penguins don’t make phone calls. 

[Josh] Right [laughs]. 

[Donna] So we have to, we have to spy on them in a different way than you get information from your gliders. And I did see a couple of penguins return to the colony and walking past. There, the one that just shook its head, and that’s on the very edge, right edge of the colony might be thinking about leaving. Actually now it’s thinking about preening, it’s just cleaning up. 

And I should mention too that penguins when they come back, come back from foraging trips or even when they’re hanging around at the nest, they do spend time preening. That one is definitely preening, it’s got its bill down in its feathers. Kind of like cleaning up, taking a shower. They have an oil gland at the base of their tail, that’s where they get their waterproofing oil. 

[Video: A penguin walks into view from the right]

[Donna] And penguins also go through a molt every season, where they molt off every one of their feathers. There’s a penguin that’s returning. Now that one is waddling as if it’s got a very full belly, excellent. Um, it might be going into the colony, and what they’ll do when they return from a foraging trip is that they’ll walk to the edge of the call and they’ll display, put their head in the air, and they’ll call. 

[Video: Camera zooms in on group of penguins]

[Donna] So they make a, uh, uh kind of [inaudible because of wind] chick. What happens this time of the year when the chicks are in their crèche phase is the chick will actually run out, chick or chicks, run out and [wind gust] greet the parents. So it’s pretty neat to see that. And even what’s more interesting is that when the chicks are in crèche phase they will actually run at, the parent will run away from them, stop and call, and then the chick will chase them all around. When they go on these feeding, these little feeding chases a couple things happen. It ensures the parent that it’s actually feeding its own chicks,

[Video: Camera pans to rocky area between the colony and the water, where one penguin is standing and another is walking toward the water]

which is important when you have to go out and make a, make a living forging for krill. There’s one that’s walking past. Look at it go. They’re a lot more graceful on land than I am. 

[Josh and Hugh laugh]

[Hugh] We also had a question because one of the viewers noticed the orange stuff on top of the rocks, and wondered what that was. It looks like spray paint but I don’t think it is. 

[Donna] It’s not, do you want to answer that? 

[Josh] No. 

[Donna and Hugh laugh]

[Donna] Oh, okay. 

[Josh] Not say no, but I would, Donna is much more familiar with it. It’s, it’s far too biological 

[Donna] Okay. 

[Josh] for me to answer correctly. 

[Donna] It’s not remote control. 

[Josh] That’s right, it’s not a robot. 

[Donna] It’s not a robot. Yeah, that’s actually lichen. And it’s uh, we have several species of lichen here. Some that it’s more crustose,

[Video: A penguin walks into view from the left, near the water]

and it’s just sort of that um orange, looks like spray paint. But um it’s pretty interesting to go to the outlying islands and see so many different colors, 

[Video: Camera pans to the penguin colony, with water and moss in the background]

and such a diversity of plant life on the lichen. And I think we’re zooming in there on some moss. But we’ve got several different types of lichen, and makes you wish we had caribou, but um we don’t. So nothing really uses the lichen, nothing eats it, nothing works it, on it, but um we do have lots of different lichens. 

[Video: Camera moves around in the penguin colony with some chicks visible]

What do we have there? 

[Hugh] We’re trying to find you a shot of some young, some penguin chicks. We’re getting a few questions about them, and I think maybe a few viewers are having trouble seeing them. So could you try pointing them out? 

[Donna] Okay, yeah perfect Chris right there. Um if you could, okay. On that, on the upper left portion of the screen there are some uniformly dark gray blobs that look fairly miserable, and one walking too in the very center of the screen. Chicks right now are covered in down, and they’re just barely starting to get their adult fledge feathers in. 

At the very, very center to the left of that rock, um, I can’t point, I want to point. To the left of the big rock almost dead center, high center in the frame. You can see a chick that’s got a white chin, and it’s starting to get the white feathers that are coming down through the down. So that is a chick. 

And then to the very left edge of the frame there are sev—there’s a couple of chicks standing together with an adult that’s displaying right behind it. So if you look in front of that disp—on and then there’s an adult and a chick that’s displaying, top left corner. Uh the chick is shorter, and gray and

[Hugh] You mentioned that the chicks have down feathers, and so they are actually sort of fluff—fluffier and fuzzier looking, right? 

[Donna] Absolutely, that, the adults are going to look streamlined completely black and white. That’s a great shot right there, center of the frame, just barely to the right. Oh and there’s a chick following a parent around. 

[Video: Camera zooms in closer to penguins, showing chicks in the center]

You can see some chicks standing facing the right. It’s kind of facing center. And then there are two chicks that are mobbing an adult, just barely at the top of the frame almost out of view. 

[Video: Camera moves up to show the chicks mobbing an adult]

And those are actually, yeah there you go. Those are trying to get fed from a parent that’s just returned from the sea. So you see the chicks are following the adults. The adults are calling to the chicks, and that helps the adult ensure that it’s feeding its own offspring. 

[Hugh] And you may have touched on this already, Donna. But some students were wondering who exactly is taking care of the chicks? 

[Donna] Mmhmm, okay. 

[Hugh] Is it everybody? Is it one or the other? 

[Donna] Right now it’s both parents. And when they’re in that, when they’re in that crèche phase the two chicks—the chicks will be standing in a kind of a nursery group, where there are very few adults guarding the colony, and a large group of chicks. That allows most of the adults, most of the parents to go out and feed and provision the chicks. So right now both males and females, both parents, are feeding their chicks. And when they’re in the crèche, that’s when both parents can go out and feed almost the same, pretty much at the same time. 

[Hugh] And that lasts for a couple of weeks? You said these chicks are about five weeks old? 

[Donna] They’re about five weeks old, yes. 

[Hugh] Then at about what eight weeks they’ll be ready to swim off? 

[Donna] Absolutely, by eight weeks they will be independent of their nest and their parents. And they don’t have any formal training, so when they leave and get in, when they go down to the beach for their first flight ha, for their first swim, there’s no training, there’s no YMCA lessons, nothing. 

They eventually will get super hungry, their parents aren’t feeding them anymore, there’s no nest structure left. The chicks will gather on the beach and then off they go. They’ll jump into the ocean, and actually just start swimming and you’ll see them bob along, bob along, bob along, and then eventually they’ll start to figure out how to dive and swim. So there’s a, there’s a very steep learning curve there for chicks to get out, figure out how to swim and how to dive, and do it all on their own. 

[Hugh] Yeah, that’s, so let’s talk also about the the rest of the year, right. So is, so we think about them nesting, we see them here in the colony. But you know thinking about these chicks learning how to swim, then where do they go? As soon as they leave, do they come back each night? 

[Donna] No, they don’t. Once they leave the colony, once they’ve learned how to swim and they’re on their own they’ll start foraging and Adélie penguins specifically tend to move south. And what they’re looking for, their winter habitat is actually made up of sea ice. And so they need that ice platform during the winter. 

And that’s, that’s really important because um as I mentioned Adélie are true Antarctic penguins. Chinstraps and gentoos on the other hand need open water. So once they fledge from their colonies, they’re looking for open water habitat. Um gentoos don’t necessarily migrate off their colonies at all. And so they stay in areas that are predictably ice-free. 

[Hugh] But so,

[Donna] In winter. 

[Hugh] but so with these Adélie colonies that we’re looking at,

[Donna] Mmhmm. 

[Hugh] you’re saying that these are going to be empty? 

[Donna] They will be mostly empty um by the middle of February. And what will happen is once a parent has sent the children off to college, once they’re done feeding the, the chicks and they’re done provisioning the chicks every day. The parents will go out, find a really good restaurant, a great krill patch or several great krill patches and fatten themselves up. And get back some of the energy that they’ve spent the last eight or ten weeks raising their chicks. 

And then the parents will go and haul up somewhere, anywhere, it doesn’t have to be the colony. Anywhere that they can get out of the wind and have a sheltered spot, and they will mold off all of their feathers. So the parents will then go through the molt, it’s kind of like, oh I’m done. 

[Hugh laughs]

And then they’ll, once they’re fattened up and ready to molt, once they have their new feathers it’s time for them to start their winter. So these colonies will be empty within the next three weeks or so. 

[Hugh] Wow, so it’s a short summer and then a long winter. And, and what is it about the sea ice? I mean is it beneficial to them? Is it like a form of transport? Is it a…? 

[Donna] Right, it’s a, it’s a very good, it’s a platform that they need as their habitat for survival. So they’ll be larval, um the young, juvenile, the juvenile krill will be under that sea ice. And it gives not only gives the young krill a place to hide, but it gives penguins and other seabirds a place to forage for krill. 

So it’s habitat, and for um, habitat for hauling out at night, and it’s also a great place for them to forage. And you can see in a, um super perfect view in that, the webcam. There are two chicks right in the center that are begging for food from two adults. 

[Video: Chicks beg adults for food, and an adult starts feeding a chick]

And you can see, oh it’s feeding! Right on. There’s an adult, the adult on the right just fed one of the chicks. And you can see that they’re displaying. All of that, all of that head waving and calling, that I um, is all about identifying. There you go, there’s some feeding right there. So the mate that’s on the right probably just returned from foraging. The mate on the left may have just as well.

But one of them will likely um now take off and head to sea to feed. That is a fantastic view of two Adélie chicks being fed by the parents. And that chick that’s in the front, you can see it’s got a little bit of a goatee there left of down. The rest of it is mostly, on most of the down is molted off. Probably a little bit on its back still, but um. 

Then there’s another chick behind it. And those are pretty chunky birds. Those are, those look very healthy. It’s nice to see them so well fed. Uh that, even just seeing chicks in that condition helps us to assess that there is prey close by. The parents are able to provision them. And that, I think that agrees with what you’re seeing, Josh? 

[Josh] Yeah, it does, it does. That’s what we’re seeing. The, actually this year we’ve seen a lot of predators. The penguins have been not going very far. We’ve seen a lot of humpback whales 

[Donna] Oh yeah. 

[Josh] in the area, more than I remember last year, swimming very close to where these colonies are. And so we’re getting a very good idea of where these krill swarms are that the penguins are feeding. And hopefully we’ll understand a little bit about the ocean that’s happening right there as well. 

[Donna] Absolutely. 

[Hugh] You know, seeing those two adults uh standing there feeding their chicks brings up a question that has been asked a few times 

[Donna] Mmhmm. 

[Hugh] now in the chat, which is do penguins mate for life? 

[Donna] …wellll. 

[Hugh and Josh laugh]

Um, mostly? Yeah. They, they mostly do. But sometimes um, would, and I can, I’m thinking back to when we used to have specific bands on penguins. And a band is numbered, and it tells us exactly who that is. It’s like wearing an identification. And when we had banded birds we would see that mostly they do mate monogamously. 

Um, but every now and then a penguin will disappear, either it fails to return for one reason or another, or it’s eaten by a leopard seal. Something happens that prevents its return to Torgersen Island or wherever it’s nesting. In that case um, um whichever mate is leftover, be it the male or female, will try and find a territory and display. And eventually remarry? I guess, mate swap, find another mate. Then you get that tense situation where um, every now and then there are two that are interested in the same male. And um, I’ve seen some fierce battles between the ladies. 

[Josh laughs]

They’re not always clean. 

[Hugh] We had another question 

[Donna] Yes. 

[Hugh] come in that’s uh asking you Donna specifically since you’ve been coming down here for so long. Have you seen any changes in the environment, and in the penguins in that time? 

[Donna] That’s a really, really good question, and um. One of the changes, when I started here uh, Torgersen Island had approximately eight thousand pairs of nesting penguins. And as I said we’re down to, I think just under a thousand pairs. So the, the Adelie penguin population in this area has decreased by about eighty-five percent. Um and that is mirroring a trend along the peninsula, not just around Palmer Station, but along the northern and central part of the peninsula. 

Down to the south, however, we’re seeing stable to increasing populations, which has to do with changes in their marine environment, and is another thing we hope to get to in our collaborative research here. 

[Josh] Right. 

[Donna] Um, so we’ve seen changes in the environment, we’ve seen less sea ice. We’ve seen warmer summer temperatures. Uh some changes in the width, went, wither. Wither! The wind and weather patterns, and um also. Just in looking around and we showed you the Marr Ice Piedmont, we showed you some of the islands that have snow banks, icebergs around. Um I’ve seen islands pop out from under glaciers. We’ve seen, we’ve had peninsulas that we work on, and points turn into islands. So that ice bridge will actually collapse and be completely gone. 

[Hugh] Yeah, I think we just heard and, and we mentioned it in the chat window. Um you may have heard on the audio a big sound that sounds like thunder. And when you hear thunder here it’s not thunder, it’s a glacier that’s giving birth to an iceberg, basically.

[Donna] It’s calving, yes. 

[Hugh] We just had a big calving event just now, um and Donna I think um if we had been here with you 20 years ago it would be a lot shorter walk to the glacier, is that true? 

[Donna] Absolutely, absolutely that’s a, that’s also another good point. That the Marr Ice Piedmont is retreating at about 35 feet per year, so in the time that I’ve been here, that’s uh like a million miles. 

[Hugh and Josh laugh]

It’s uh gone far, quite, quite a ways back. And actually one of the features, the reason that Palmer Station was located on Gamage Point. One of the things that they used to do back then was that they had, they used um meltwater to provide water for the station. So they, the proximity to the glacier face was one of the reasons this location was picked. 

[Hugh] Oh, wow. 

[Donna] So it truly has changed quite a bit. 

[Hugh] Okay, well we’re getting close to the end of this broadcast. We still have about eight minutes left, so please do if you haven’t had your question answered yet please keep typing them in and we’ll keep collecting them. We had a question, or a few people have asked um, Josh mentioned about krill predators. But what about penguin predators? Um what kind of predator, what kind of animals are a danger to penguins? 

[Donna] Um, absolutely. They kind of get it, they get hammered on land and at sea. So on land what will happen to them is that they’ll um, brown skuas in this area. We have brown and south polar, but brown skuas are the main predator, land-based predators, on penguins. 

[Hugh] And can you describe what a skua is? 

[Donna] Absolutely, it’s like a predatory gull. They’re actually in the gull family, and they’re um, about 4-foot wingspan on a brown skua. Um, about four pounds. And they’re large, predatory gulls, basically. Um they can fish, but also mostly here they will eat penguins, eggs, chicks. They can, they’re very strong. They can actually drag chicks out of the colony even at this point. So they’re, they’re opportunistic and efficient predators. 

At sea they have to contend with leopard seals mostly. And um, that they can be anywhere. They kind of pulse in and out of an area. So we tend to see leopard seals this time of the year, at any time of the year, but certainly when they’re, the penguins start to fledge you tend to see more leopard seal activity in the area. 

[Video: Camera zooms back to show the penguins and the water]

[Hugh] And so a leopard seal is not your typical friendly, cuddly seal? 

[Donna] Not so much, no. A lot of teeth in that mouth. Yeah, so leopard seals actually, they don’t just eat penguins, they actually eat other seals and they’ll eat krill. If they um, krill and fish. We’ve actually seen them eating fish, waving fish in the air. Or actually saw one logging at the surface with a piece of a Weddell seal tucked under its flipper, which is strange sight I should say, yeah. So they too are opportunistic. Predators are quite efficient down here. 

[Hugh] And there are quite a few leopard seals in the area. We actually, everybody woke up early yesterday morning and found a leopard seal on the dock that we use to tie up our zodiac boats, which are used for all of the work that’s done out here. Uh so, um, that made it a little bit difficult for us all to get out to work yesterday, didn’t it? 

[Donna] Absolutely, gotta roll with the punches, huh? 

[Josh laughs]

[Donna] Roll with the seals. 

[Josh] Yeah, definitely. 

[Hugh] There’s also the question that has come in about just sort of what is life, what is it like to live here? And particularly, you know, do you miss your family? So can you both answer that? 

[Josh] Sure. Life here is, is it’s really nice actually in terms of the support that we get, the science, it’s a great sense of community. Um there’s, during the summer there’s forty four of us on station. We have twenty or so are supporting the science. So it includes the mechanics that are keeping the generators going, the very important cooks that are keeping us fed. Um the boating coordinators who are keeping us on the water doing our science. And all the different roles that are played here on station that are really, really important. 

And so you do get a great sense of community, um but you of course miss your family. I have a ten year old about to be eleven year old back at home, and a five year old daughter, my wife. And so you definitely miss your family while you’re down here, and you think about them a lot. But you do get a chance to keep in touch. Um we’re fortunate in that we have email access here, and internet access that’s actually good enough for us to broadcast a live camera feed back from Torgersen Island. 

Um it’s also good enough for us to keep in touch with our family through voice phone calls, emails, and occasional video chats uh with them just to keep in touch. So, so that does help, but but it is difficult to be away. 

[Donna] Oh absolutely, absolutely. It’s it, it’s uh, I was just talking to some, Chris here, and the way that I put it to people is that when I’m here, we’re gone with intensity. And when we’re home we parent, and we’re family, you know we’re there with intensity. Um and so you have to kind of adjust and do the best you can, and absolutely it’s hard to be away from family. 

And um, I’ve got an eleven year old and I don’t know if they’re able to watch this today, but I sure hope so, and I miss him tremendously. Um and I also um, the other had, one of the lead principal investigator of our project is my husband, and so we have to kind of swap back and forth with being gone and home. 

But having that, the community that Josh just mentioned truly makes it easier to be here. Uh we’re not, we’re not suffering. We’re being fed really well, but it’s just a fantastic community. Um our field teams are amazing. 

[Video: Camera zooms out more and one skua flies in and lands next to another skua]

Um, and like your miniature families there. There goes a skua. Oh a skua’s landing! Great on the camera in the back, two skuas are displaying. I hope you got to see that. Um so probably scavenging some goodies. 

[Hugh] Great. We’ve had a number of questions about, and about how do you tell the difference between male and female penguins? Is there any way? 

[Donna] Uh there are, there is a way when they’re, mostly when they’re standing side-by-side or when we have them in hand. One of the ways is if they’re side by side like you can see some penguins displaying to each other in the the Torgersen penguin cam, males are slightly larger. Their, their culmen or their beak is, uh their mandible, is larger on a male typically than a female, they’re bigger bodied. 

And if you have them in hand of course when we put transmitters on them we take measurements. And the weight, the body weight, that helps us as well. So mostly by size, and when you see them side-by-side it’s definitely easier. 

[Hugh] Great, and the other question that has been coming in is just sort of how big are these penguins? Can you describe?

[Donna] Absolutely the, the three species, the brush-tailed penguins are about 18 to 20 inches high, 18 inches pretty much. And anywhere from four to four to, I’m sorry four kilos, so eight pounds, eight to ten pounds for an Adélie, and typically larger for gentoo, typically a little bit smaller for chinstrap. So what you’re looking at right now, probably eight to ten pounds. 

[Hugh] Okay so um, uh, let’s so, so I think the last thing that we’re going to do here um is try to just take one more of you at the, at Palmer Station. 

[Video: Camera pans over to and zooms in on Palmer Station]

We want to say thanks to everybody for joining us on this tour. Um we want to say thanks to the National Science Foundation, and the IT staff at Palmer Station for um, for making this possible. Thanks to everybody for tuning in and for um, for uh asking so many good questions. And you may be able to see us on here. We’re on the upper floor of that yellow building. Where that yellow balcony is, we’ll come over here. 

Hellooo! Hellooo! 

[Video: Josh and Donna walk out of view of smaller shot, then Josh and Hugh walk back into view]

All right, well that was a lot of fun for us. So, so thank you everybody. And we have another one of these broadcasts on Saturday at eleven o’clock eastern. So we’ll be, we’ll be looking forward to seeing you again then, and answering more of your questions. And, and having a good time. So thanks to everybody, and goodbye. 

[Josh] Thank you everyone, it was great. Great questions! 

[Video: Donna walks back into view]

{Donna] Thank you! See you.

End of transcript

From December 2014 until February 2015, Cornell Lab science editor Hugh Powell was in Antarctica following the work of Project CONVERGE scientists as they studied the food chain that supports everything from phytoplankton to krill to penguins. While there, he hosted two live broadcasts from Palmer Station, Antarctica. Watch them here to meet the penguins and learn from some of the scientists working on the other side of the world.