Penguin Pad
Dee Boersma
Photo courtesy Dee Boersma

Some people build birdhouses. Others, like University of Washington conservation biologist Dee Boersma, build penguins condos.

Boersma and her team spent the last three weeks of September in the Galápagos Islands, building 120 nests for the endangered Galápagos penguins.

“I’ve studied penguins off and on for the last 40 years and have been turning in my mind how we could increase their population,” she says.

“The change in climate and the more frequent El Niños are having a negative effect on their reproductive success. But right now, we’re having a cold-water event, so there’s plenty of food for penguins. It’s a perfect time for them to breed.”

The only problem? No shaded nests where they can lay their eggs and keep them safe from predators such as dogs, cats and rats. So Boersma and her team built nests along the volcanic shorelines of Fernandina, Bartolome and the tiny islets off Isabela.

What’s it like creating a penguin housing development?

“Any time you get to go to the Galápagos, it’s fun,” she says. “But carrying around big pieces of lava is hard. You’re walking over terrain that’s difficult to walk over, pounding holes in lava to make tunnels so the penguins can breed in there. It’s a construction project; it’s hard work.”

Even so, Boersma says she can hardly wait to go back to the Galapagos to see if her penguins have settled into their new homes.

“I think they’ll find them and use them,” she says. “But I won’t know until February.”
—Diane Mapes

3 Responses to Penguin Pad

  1. Shun Ling says:

    For Ms. Boersma, Love your work. Have always been intrigued by penguins, my favorite bird. I’m for what you are doing. However, how did you convince the Galápagos government or conservationists to get permission to build the “condos?” I would of thought the conservationists positiion would have been that you were interrupting a natural event re the evolution of these penguins. Unless they take the position that the present climate change comes strictly from human intervention and therefore not a natural event. Keep building. Shun

  2. Sherri says:

    What? No pictures of the condos? I wanted to see pictures! What a shame.

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