Dr. Dee Boersma, a professor at the University of Washington, USA, has been studying Magellanic penguins for 40 years with support from WCS. Her sustained effort has produced an enormous amount of information on the behavior and conservation of this species, essential for tourism in Punta Tombo in Argentina, and many biologists have been trained under her guidance. Today Magellanic penguins are better protected than four decades ago, and much of the credit goes to Dr. Boersma.
40 Years of Work in Punta Tombo
“The wildlife in this place is amazing! There are penguins, guanacos, cormorants, rheas, sea lions…”, Dee Boersma exclaims enthusiastically in Punta Tombo, Chubut. The first time Dee visited this area was in December 1982, invited by Bill Conway, then General Director of WCS. Four decades and hundreds of visits later, her fascination with Punta Tombo and its wildlife remains unchanged.
“I have studied the natural history of penguins at Punta Tombo for 40 years. We have identified penguins that are over 30 years old, we have found that many birds are bachelors that have never found a partner, and we even recorded a few 'divorces' of penguins that found new partners,” said Dr. Boersma recalling some of her research.
Monitoring programs sustained over time are essential to detect changes in populations and interpret the factors that cause them, such as climate change and pressures generated by human activities. Although it might seem that penguins always existed here, the first nesting pairs were documented at Punta Tombo in 1924. Their population increased rapidly until the 1960s. However now we are seeing a decline due to a shift to colonies on Península Valdés, more than 200km north of Tombo. This extraordinary movement is the product of a northward redistribution of the food on which they depend at sea, in particular Argentine anchovy perhaps caused, at least in part, by climate change.
Dr. Boersma acknowledges that such an extensive period of research was only possible thanks to the cooperation and help of many people and institutions, including the Province of Chubut, the La Regina Family, owners of Estancia La Perla, and especially William Conway and Guillermo Harris of WCS, who supported her research work over the past four decades. Some of the results of fieldwork carried out by Dee and her team at Punta Tombo include the following:
WCS commends Dr. Boersma on the enormous amount of valuable information her research on Magellanic penguins has generated over the past 40 years.
Join more than one million wildlife lovers working to save the Earth's most treasured and threatened species.
Thanks for signing up