Getting personal with penguins

Life’s a Béche

Video transcript

Just a few kilometres from Mawson research station…

…Béchervaise Island could be on another planet

Kim Kliska, Field biologist “Yes, Béchervaise does look like – a bit like a space station on Mars. The Googies behind us are our living and our workspace, so there’s only three of those. So very limited space, and if the weather’s bad that’s all we have, really, compared to the station – it’s quite different.”

Marcus Salton, Field biologist “While we’re out here on Béchervaise Island on our own, it’s quite peaceful aside from the noises of the penguins.

Biologists live on the island during summer to study seabirds

The Adelie penguin population here has been monitored for decades

Marcus “It’s a long standing program, been going for 30 years and it is quite unusual and quite unique. It’s because it’s about the life span of a penguin so we can start to look at things happening through time such as changes in their breeding success and how that’s linked with changes in their environment.”

Kim “Penguins are an indicator species, so we use the Adélies here to look at how much krill is in the local ecosystem, and that’s really important. We have these weighbridge systems, and as the penguins come and go we get the weights as they’re coming in and as they’re going out, so we can look at how much krill they’re actually feeding their chicks.”

Automatic cameras take photos every day throughout the year

Marcus “From those photos we can look at when the penguins are arriving, when they’re departing and how many eggs are laid and how many chicks are produced.”

Counts show that 1500 breeding pairs live here, out of a regional population of 80,000 pairs

Kim “Studying penguins is really glamorous! They’re quite smelly, so living here – we live out here for a few weeks – and yes, you become really used to the smell, to the point where you don’t notice it. Yes, they’re just fascinating. It is an amazing job.”

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