Jane Ffoulkes of Bromsgrove with the Gentoo Penguins at the National Sea Life Centre Birmingham
Ian Craig / Friday 2 October 2015
AN ALLOTMENT owner from Bromsgrove searching for the perfect fertiliser made an unusual request to a Midlands sea life centre.
Jane Ffoulkes began tending an allotment in the town earlier this year
and, while researching types of fertiliser, discovered penguin
droppings contained exactly what she needed.
She said: “The excrement, known as guano, contains the contents of
nitrogen, phosphate and potassium, all three essential nutrients for
“I then looked into the closest place I could get my hands on this and
got in touch with The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham.”
The attraction’s marketing manager George Paige said: “I was surprised
when someone contacted us for our penguin poo, as this is probably one
of the most unusual requests we have had.”
Unfortunately the centre had to poo-poo the idea due to licensing
restrictions and instead offered a bag of plant fertiliser as
Four people have
completed a week's gruelling training preparing for five months in the
Antarctic Peninsular at the UK's most remote post office.
Cambridge-based UK Antarctic Heritage Trust chose a small team to spend five months at Port Lockroy.
Morris from Essex, Adele Jackson from West Yorkshire, Laura Martin from
Inverness-shire and Iain Pringle from Lincolnshire beat 2,500 other
The tiny post office deals with mail from 18,000 visitors during the summer.
heading off to their new jobs, the four postmasters spent a week in
Cambridge learning about all aspects of life on Goudier Island, which is
home to thousands of gentoo penguins.
The training course included lessons in emergency
first aid, role-play sessions on dealing with the thousands of tourists
who arrive on cruise ships, maintenance of the museum and historic
buildings and learning how to use specialist data collection equipment
to monitor the impact of people on the resident penguin population.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also sent an expert to deliver a lesson on the finer points of the Antarctic Treaty.
Iain Pringle, 28, from Nocton,
Lincolnshire, currently works as a geophysicist and project supervisor
at an archaeological consultancy company
Laura Martin, 25, from Kingussie, Inverness-shire, currently works as a student outdoor instructor in the Scottish Highlands
Adele Jackson, 42, from Clayton West in Huddersfield, visited Antarctica last year and worked as an expedition photographer
Rachel Morris, from Saffron Walden in
Essex, is in her mid-30s, and has just returned from South Georgia
Heritage Trust museum, where she worked as an assistant
The training was intended to equip them for everyday life at Port Lockroy.
ask a lot of the team when we send them to Antarctica, with each member
having responsibility for a very broad and diverse set of duties,"
Camilla Nichol, chief executive of the trust, said.
Trainee postmaster Rachel Morris described the training as "very thorough" and said it had helped them "bond as a team".
"I feel as prepared as possible for the work we will do," she said.
settled in their new home, the team are expected to send regular blogs
back to the Antarctic Heritage Trust detailing daily life as a postman
among the penguins.
Can climate change be good for penguins?! A new study suggests that
at least one unusual species of the swimming birds found on the iconic
Galapagos Islands might actually benefit from a changing world.
It's no secret that the great majority of penguins are having a
tough time in the wake of climate change. The iconic emperor penguins of
Antarctica, for instance, continues to march towards extinction as
the average climate of their native habitat continues to warm. Some
research has shown that due to shifting ocean currents and water
temperatures, these animals are losing the ice from which they fish (not
unlike the arctic's polar bears) and often have to move to find new suitable territory.
What's worse, some sub-arctic penguins are being raped and then eaten by
local fur seals in a bizarre learned behavior that may be the result of
a climate driven decline in the availability of mates or more
(Photo : W.A. Haddad)
However, for the only known penguin population in the Northern Hemisphere, the shifts in atmospheric winds and ocean current that characterize climate change may actually prove helpful.
Back in 2000, the 19-inch (48cm) black and white penguins of the
Galápagos Islands found their way onto an international list of
critically endangered species. Thanks to the arrival of invasive plants,
new diseases and domesticated animals, the island chain's natives, such
as the Galapagos tortoise,
have faced rapid decline. It was no different for this unique penguin,
and experts speculated that there were only a few hundred of the
'tuxedoed' individuals left on the entire island. Today, it is
considered the rarest penguin in the world.
The Hottest Penguin Around
Most of these extremely rare birds can be found on the island chain's
westernmost islands, Isabella and Fernandina, where minimum
temperatures even in Dec. rest between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
There, they dive for fish that live in cold pools of water fed by the
ocean's chilly and nutrient-rich southwestern current - the very edges
of the Equatorial Undercurrent.
"The penguins are the innocent bystanders experiencing feast or
famine depending on what the Equatorial Undercurrent is doing from year
to year," Kristopher Karnauskas, a climate scientist and researcher,
explained in a recent statement.
(Photo : zpics on Flickr)
Karnauskas recently determined that over the past 30 years, changes
in wind and ocean currents have nudged the Equatorial Undercurrent
further north, bolstering how much cold water reaches the Galapagos'
southwestern shores. As a result, the pools the archipelago's penguins
rely on to survive have grown larger and packed with plenty of fish.
The researcher and his colleagues at Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution also noted that despite their worryingly small group, the
Galapagos penguin population is now growing, swelling to more than 1,000
birds by 2014. The results were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Swimming in the Face of Extinction
And if you think this current shift was lucky for these birds, you
don't even know the half of it. According to Karnauskas' work and others
like it, the Galapagos penguins once numbered 2,000 individuals or
more. Then in the 1980s a strong El Niño - a time when sea surface
temperatures in the tropical Pacific are unusually warm - pushed away
essential cold currents. As a result, the penguins starved, dropping to
less than 500 birds. Invaders like dogs and cats then disrupted mating
and nesting, making it particularly difficult for the population to
(Photo : zpics on Flickr)
It was the resurgence of the Equatorial Undercurrent that apparently
saved these rare birds, but they aren't out of the woods just yet.
Northeast of the Galapagos island is a strange and growing patch of warm
water called "The Blob" by oceanic experts. Serving as a buffer for cold currents, The Blob has effectively kept nutrient rich waters away from
North and Central America's western shores. As a consequence, local
food webs are being disrupted, potentially explaining for the starving sea lion pups that are washing up on Californian beaches, and the mass deaths of West Coast seabirds.
According to the NOAA,
The Blob is not a consequence of climate change. In fact, the
Equatorial Undercurrent's shift may be what's keeping it contained to
the eastern edge of the Pacific. Instead, it may be persisting thanks to
the emergence of a newly identified El Niño southern oscillation - a purely natural phenomenon that may have helped cause historic drought conditions currently seen in California, Oregon, and Washington.
(Photo : NOAA National Climate Data Center) The Blob continues to press in on the North American coast, as seen last April.
What's worse, researchers announced back in Nov. that the pacific is priming for a stretch of particularly harmful El Niños that could threaten both declining coral populations and
the Galapagos penguins. The hope then, is that the northern shift of
the Equatorial Undercurrent persists, counteracting what could be
otherwise disastrous conditions in the Pacific.
According to Karnauskas, that's also why his work is invaluable to
conservationists trying to protect the rare penguins. With strong
evidence that the regions where the birds feed are expanding (for now),
Karnauskas argues that it could be easier to expand marine-protected
areas around the islands, giving the penguins a little more growing
"With climate change, there are a lot of new and increasing stresses
on ecosystems, but biology sometimes surprises us," he said. "There
might be places-little outposts-where ecosystems might thrive just by
The Penguin Camera is located on Torgersen Island (64°46’S, 64°04’W), off the coast of Anvers Island and less than a mile from Palmer Station. Torgersen Island is home to a colony of Adélie penguins numbering approximately 2,500. This camera is seasonal and operates primarily from October to February, the Adélie breeding season. The camera is solar-powered and may sometimes experience brief outages due to inclement weather. School classrooms and other educational demonstrations will often take control of the camera, moving it to gain better views of the colony.
A lifelong student and confirmed polymath, I am currently writing my 2nd book this spring. I have an AS in Biology, a BA and an MA in English, plus I began a degree in Geology while living in CA. I am a retired herpetologist, but my blogs and current interests strive to promote animal conservation, particularly Penguins,Wolves, and Big Cats. I live with the loves of my life, Sissy, a Chihuahua, and Joey, Alero, Jillian, Loki, Jadin, Perse, Socks and Siggy - my ThunderCats - who help me cope with narcolepsy.