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List of "In the Spotlight" Features

Adélie Penguin Scientist - LIVE from Antarctica


Michelle Hester, President of
Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge

by Jean Pennycook

On January 23, 2009, ACES partner scientist Ms. Michelle Hester held an exciting webcast live from Antarctica. Ms. Hester, President of ACES partner Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge, discussed some tagging work she has been doing with a group called Penguin Science.

ACES students from 12 states (AR, IA, ID, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, NJ, SD, TN, WI) participated in this special opportunity to talk live with a real wildlife biologist "on the ice". Michelle explained that the main focus of the studies on Adélie penguins is to learn about their lives and how they adapt to their changing world in terms of ice, food, and weather. Due to global climate change, there have been many changes to the environment of these animals.



Ms. Hester focused a lot of her talk on the importance of ice to these penguins. When penguins enter the water to find food, they must navigate through open water, pack ice, seasonal ice, and ice shelves. Ice shelves are extensions of glaciers that extend off of the Antarctic continent. This is fresh water ice and ice shelves break up into ice bergs. Seasonal ice and pack ice are sea ice. Sea ice is frozen ocean water - remember that only the top layer freezes! In addition to navigating all of this ice to reach open water, one of the Adélie Penguin's major food sources, krill, is also depended on algae that grows on the bottom of the ice.



Another topic was penguin nesting. Beginning in November, Adélie penguins build their nests out of rocks. The rocks help to keep the eggs dry. Males begin to build the nest and then begin courtship. These birds normally mate for life. The penguin parents then incubate the egg for about 30 days until the chick hatches.

To listen to a clip of Ms. Hester describing a nest:

Click here to view the clip.


Once the chick arrives, the parents must go out on foraging trips to feed their baby. While the adults are on their trips, they can dive as deep as 550 feet to catch food! The maps below show tracks of some foraging trips.

ACES students were very excited to ask questions of Ms. Hester and to learn more about Adélie Penguins. To access the penguin location data, click here.

Click here to keep an eye on Adélie Penguin nests using this nest check activity.

"I though it was very interesting and entertaining. It was way better than the discovery channel."

- Tracy, AR

"Being a child from the south it was really interesting to learn about penguins. I have never studied penguins before. I think it opened up new career choices for me."

- Chris, AR

 Sponsored by:
NASA logoNational Aeronautics and
Space Administration

(NASA Award NCC5433)
NOAA logoNational Oceanic &
Atmospheric Administration

(NOAA Award NA06SEC4690006)

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