Posts Tagged ‘Antartcica’

Penguin Fossil Expert Joins The Bruce

May 23, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that Daniel Ksepka, an expert in fossil records of penguins, will join Greenwich Connecticut’s  Bruce Museum as its newest Curator of Science next month.

“We are delighted that Daniel Ksepka is joining the curatorial staff at the Bruce,” says Peter C. Sutton, executive director of the Bruce Museum.  “Daniel comes to us not only with a vast body of knowledge but also with a great deal of creativity and enthusiasm.  He is already planning some exciting new science exhibitions for the Museum.” Ksepka earned his doctorate in earth and environmental sciences from Columbia University in 2007. He spent five years in residence at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he performed his dissertation research on the fossil record of penguins and gained broad experience in the curation and study of natural history objects, including fossils, skeletal materials, skins and geological specimens.

kairuku-penguin-fossils

Ksepka earned his doctorate in earth and environmental sciences from Columbia University in 2007. He spent five years in residence at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he performed his dissertation research on the fossil record of penguins and gained broad experience in the curation and study of natural history objects, including fossils, skeletal materials, skins and geological specimens.

“Penguins are 10 times older than humans and have been here for a very, very long time,” said Ksepka, who has researched the evolution of penguins and how they came to inhabit the African continent.

Ksepka earned his doctorate in earth and environmental sciences from Columbia University in 2007. He spent five years in residence at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he performed his dissertation research on the fossil record of penguins and gained broad experience in the curation and study of natural history objects, including fossils, skeletal materials, skins and geological specimens.  “Penguins are 10 times older than humans and have been here for a very, very long time,” said Ksepka, who has researched the evolution of penguins and how they came to inhabit the African continent.

prehistoricpenguin

Because penguins have been around for 60 million years, they have an extensive fossil record, he wrote at the American Scientist. (Watch the video above as Ksepka goes into depth about how his research pieces together the evolutionary puzzle of penguins and other related bird species.)

Ksepka recently contributed to several important museum exhibitions, including the traveling Race to the End of the Earth and Mythical Beasts exhibitions at the American Museum of Natural History and the Polar Palooza special exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. His background includes work in science education, an important aspect of the Bruce Museum’s exhibition programs. Ksepka has a long track record of collaborating with K-12 educators, including designing science content, presenting formal professional development talks for science teachers, and designing workshops for teaching special topics in geology, biology and paleontology.

Ksepka has been a featured speaker at the Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Field Museum. In addition to more than 30 formal peer-reviewed research papers, he has written articles for popular science magazines, including Scientific American, American Scientist, and Dig. Even his personal blog, “March of the Fossil Penguins,” attracts more than 50,000 visitors per year. Ksepka joins the Bruce Museum from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina, where he served as a postdoctoral researcher, and retains associate positions at the Field Museum, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Because penguins have been around for 60 million years, they have an extensive fossil record, he wrote at the American Scientist. (Watch the video above as Ksepka goes into depth about how his research pieces together the evolutionary puzzle of penguins and other related bird species.) Ksepka recently contributed to several important museum exhibitions, including the traveling Race to the End of the Earth and Mythical Beasts exhibitions at the American Museum of Natural History and the Polar Palooza special exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

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His background includes work in science education, an important aspect of the Bruce Museum’s exhibition programs. Ksepka has a long track record of collaborating with K-12 educators, including designing science content, presenting formal professional development talks for science teachers, and designing workshops for teaching special topics in geology, biology and paleontology. Ksepka has been a featured speaker at the Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Field Museum. In addition to more than 30 formal peer-reviewed research papers, he has written articles for popular science magazines, including Scientific American, American Scientist, and Dig. Even his personal blog, “March of the Fossil Penguins,” attracts more than 50,000 visitors per year. Ksepka joins the Bruce Museum from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina, where he served as a postdoctoral researcher, and retains associate positions at the Field Museum, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Emperor Penguins Looking For Protection

January 22, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the emperor penguin may warrant Endangered Species Act protection based on threats from climate change. The most ice-dependent of all penguin species, emperor penguins are threatened by the loss of their sea-ice habitat and declining food availability off Antarctica.

“Our carbon pollution is melting the sea-ice habitat emperor penguins need to survive,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center. “Emperor penguins are the icons of wild Antarctica, and they need rapid cuts in carbon pollution and Endangered Species Act protections if they’re going to have a future.”

Emperor penguins rely on sea ice for raising their chicks and foraging. In parts of Antarctica where sea ice is rapidly disappearing, emperor penguins populations are declining or have been lost entirely. The emperor penguin colony featured in the film March of the Penguins has declined by more than 50 percent, and the Dion Island colony in the Antarctic Peninsula has disappeared. One recent study projected that nearly half of the world’s emperor penguins may disappear by mid-century without drastic cuts in carbon pollution.

Warming ocean temperatures and melting sea ice in the Southern Ocean encircling Antarctica have also diminished the availability of krill — a key food source for emperor penguins. Ocean acidification resulting from the ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide and industrial krill fisheries further threaten the penguins’ food supply.

In 2006 the Center filed a petition to list 12 penguin species, including the emperor penguin, as threatened or endangered. The agency protected seven penguin species but denied protection to the emperor penguin. In 2011 the Center re-petitioned the Service to protect the emperor based on new scientific information demonstrating the species is imperiled. In today’s finding the Service agreed to conduct a full scientific status review to determine if the emperor penguin should be protected under the Act.

Endangered Species Act listing of the emperor penguin would offer greater protections against the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change and the industrial overfishing of key prey species. For example, if penguins are listed, future approval of fishing permits for U.S.-flagged vessels operating on the high seas would require minimization of impacts on penguins. The Act also compels federal agencies to ensure that their actions — including those generating large volumes of carbon pollution — do not jeopardize endangered species and their habitat.

EmperorPenguins_MichaelVanWoert_NOAA

 

Kinky Penguins Sexual Antics Revealed!

June 11, 2012

London’s Natural History Museum has unearthed a landmark study by George Murray Levick, a scientist with the ill-fated 1910-13 Scott Antarctic Expedition, detailing the birds’ sexual shenaniganshave come to the Penguin Post. Homosexual acts, sexual abuse of chicks and even attempts by male penguins to mate with dead females are recorded in Levick’s paper “Sexual Habits of the Adelie Penguin”, which had been lost for decades.

“Kinky” Adelie sexual behavior mortified Edwardian England.

Edwardian Englishman Levick was so horrified by his own findings that he initially recorded them in Greek to make them inaccessible to the average reader.  Male penguins gather in “hooligan bands of half a dozen or more and hang about the outskirts of the knolls, whose inhabitants they annoy by their constant acts of depravity,” he later wrote in the paper in English.

A page for Levick’s original notebook.

To this day, Levick is the only scientist to have studied an entire breeding cycle at Cape Adare after he spent the Antarctic summer of 1911-12 there, the Guardian said. Captain Robert Scott and four others perished after reaching the South Pole on January 17, 1912 – only to find Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it more than a month earlier.

But Levick survived, despite having been forced with five others to spend an entire Antarctic winter in an ice cave with few supplies after the expedition ship, Terra Nova, was blocked by ice on its way to rescue them. Back in Britain, he published a paper called “Natural History of the Adelie Penguin”, but his findings about the species’ astonishing sexual behavior were considered so shocking that they were omitted.

Depraved penguin sexuality depicted in this Penguin Place mug.

This material was used for a short separate study, “Sexual Habits of the Adelie Penguin”, that was privately passed around a few experts. The groundbreaking paper – which came around 50 years ahead of the next study on the subject – had been lost until the recent discovery of a copy by Douglas Russell, curator of birds at the Natural History Museum.

Russell has had the paper published in the journal Polar Record along with an analysis of Levick’s work. Russell told the U.K. Sunday newspaper, The Observer, that the penguins’ sexual inexperience is to blame for the antics that so disgusted Levick. “Adelies gather at their colonies in October to start to breed. They have only a few weeks to do that and young adults simply have no experience of how to behave,” he explained. “Hence the seeming depravity of their behavior.”