Penguin Team Field Updates: OCT. 28th

Camp Set up at Crozier also known as “Camp Huddle”

Gitte’s penguin team successfully arrived at Cape Crozier on October the 28th. Our field notes may be a little behind as they are being carried out by gracious visitors who are kind enough to carry our messages back to civilization. Early in the morning the penguin team took flight in a helicopter piloted by Heff a stoic man with many years of experience flying in Antarctica. The flight from Scott Base to Cape Crozier took about 30 minutes and we had incredible views of Mt. Erebus (12,448 ft, 3794 m). We started to gain elevation as we flew over a glacier and wrapped around a bend. Heff agilely redirected the helicopter as we dropped off the glacier and back onto the sea ice. That is when Parker and David saw their first Antarctic penguin: the mighty Adele. The land side of Cape Crozier happens to be the location of one of the largest Adele colonies. I would love to google the exact number maybe those of you reading this blog can fill that bit of information for me (my best guess is ~250,000). We also saw our first emperor penguins walking and tobogganing on the ice (more information will follow with regards to how amazing these penguins are in future updates). I digress, Heff quickly turned the helicopter and the location of our Camp was first seen. Camp Huddle is located in a “finger” (a small cove located between where fast ice and sea ice meet) of fast ice. This location is relatively protected compared to other areas but the surrounding deep blue ice indicates that this area does receive heavy winds but not on a nice day like today. The weather was perfect for setting up our camp with high visibility and relatively warm temperatures at -7 degrees Celsius.

We set up camp five polar haven tents for each of five members of the crew including Sam who is helping us establish a safe camp and walk way to the colony. We erected a medium “Polar Haven” which has a heater and is the area we will be spending most of our time when it is cold. We a great kitchen set up and a nice table that serves multiple uses such dining table and data entry portal. We also set up a bathroom tent which is a classic Scott Tent. Since we are camping on sea ice all of the structures we have at Camp Huddle required us to drill holes on the ice and anchor each corner via “V thread” method as Gitte is demonstrating in the adjacent image. The basic concept of V threading requires two drill holes that connect in the ice. A rope is then place through the opening of both drilled holes and is fastened to the corner and sides of each structure. If you thought setting up a tent was difficult on land, consider drilling 230 V thread and hand tying each knot. Luckily the weather was great and we did not have to set up camp in the wind. Cape Crozier is notoriously experiencing some of the most extreme weather on the planet. Camp Huddle is fasted to the ice at Cape Crozier and we are ready to start our penguin captures within the next few days. We had a wonderful first dinner and headed to bed exhausted and excited to finally arrive at our destination.


#Natgeoexplorer #NIWA

Huddled Up,

Penguin Field Crew

Follow Us On Social Media

Behind-The-Science Look At The Technology We Use to Study Emperor Penguins: 10/17/19

Diving Deeper

Emperor penguins are the largest species of marine bird, and perhaps because of their size, they fast longer, dive deeper, and endure harsher conditions than any other avian species. As a top predator in the Antarctic ecosystem, they have a significant top-down effect on prey targeted during long, deep breath-hold dives. It is therefore essential to understand emperor penguin habitat use, diving capabilities, food habits, and behavioral flexibility in order to interpret their role in the food web and their ability to adapt to environmental change. However, studying marine vertebrates has its challenges, as we cannot visually observe their underwater behavior.

During late chick-rearing emperor penguins, a colonial breeding seabird, alternate 5-20+ day foraging trips with short visits to the colony to feed their chicks.  During these foraging trips they may travel over 100 kms from the colony and dive to depths exceeding 500 meters for over 30 minutes(Kooyman et al. 1992; Wienecke et al. 2007;  K. Sato et al. 2011; Goetz et al. 2018)! Incredible!!

Although researchers may not be able follow penguins on their extreme journeys, engineered data-logging tools (tags) allow us to track animals at fine-scale resolutions. This season we are deploying tags on 20 adult emperor penguins as they head to sea to forage. Four tag types of variable configurations will be used to study at-sea behavior. Some of the data these tags collect include dive depth, acceleration, GPS location, and video allowing us to determine where they go, when they are foraging, and what they are eating.  Additionally, the tags collect data telling us about the environment the penguins are using such as temperature and light level. With these data loggers we hope to document many firsts.  This will be the first study to document the foraging behavior of penguins from Cape Crozier, one of the southernmost colonies. Additionally, we are excited to visually document the foraging behavior of emperor penguins for the first time using a miniature video-logger developed by Little Leonardo Corporation in Tokyo. We will learn more about what they are eating and how they are catching their prey.

To further our understanding of the hidden lives of emperor penguins we must go where few have gone before.

Dive On,

Emperor Penguin Field Crew

Follow Us On Social Media

Flight to Scott Base Postponed: 10/16/19

Flight to Scott Base Postponed: 10/16/19

Fingers crossed for a Friday departure to Scott Base

The Cape Crozier Penguin Team arrived safe and sound in Christchurch New Zealand where we are waiting for our flight to Scott Base, Antarctica. We were scheduled to fly today, however we have been delayed due to a cracked windshield on the plane. Currently our flight has been postponed until Friday Oct. 18th as we are waiting for a new windshield to arrive from the USA.

In the meantime, the penguin team has been busy planning our field logistics so that we may hit the ground running on Friday. Today we are setting up our data-logging tags that will measure the GPS location, acceleration and fine-scale foraging behaviors of chick-rearing emperor penguins. Stay tuned for more information about the tags we will be using this season.

Proactively in standby,

Emperor Penguin Field Crew


C-17 Aircraft
Penguin Crew Datalogger Huddle

Follow Us On Social Media

Arrived in Christchurch New Zealand: 10/14/19

Arrived in Christchurch New Zealand: 10/14/19

Emperor Penguin Crew Lands In Christchurch New Zealand

The Penguin Team has landed in New Zealand after a 12 hour long flight from San Francisco to Aukland and a quick (1.5 hr) connecting flight to Christchurch. While in Christchurch we visited the International Antarctic Center where we were issued our clothing field gear for this season. A New Zealand rep "Lou" helped us out with our clothing selections that include warm marino wool base layers, 6 pairs of gloves, 4 hats, two pair of boots, fleece pants and down jackets, and incredibly warm survival gear. We are ready for our trip scheduled to leave at 9am on Wednesday October 19th.

Warm and ready for the Ice,

Emperor Penguin Field Crew



Follow Us On Social Media

Funded M.S. Position Available: MLML/Monterey Bay, CA

Alison Stimpert is recruiting a student for a funded master's of marine science position at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in Moss Landing, California. The student will work on a NOAA/Navy funded collaborative project using passive acoustic monitoring to describe ocean soundscapes in the US West Coast Sanctuaries (Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, and Olympic Coast:  The student will be responsible for running established Matlab code to generate analysis products, attending group meetings, and assisting with field deployments and recoveries as needed, as well as developing an individual analysis project which will become a master's thesis.

By Alison Stimpert (own work)

Required qualifications include those listed for applying to the CSU/MLML graduate program (  The ideal candidate will also have experience with marine bioacoustic/PAM data as well as programming in Matlab.  Position includes funding through August 2021, including tuition, travel, and salary, and preference will be given to those who can begin work in January 2020.  The accepted student will be expected to be an active participant in the MLML graduate program and a contributing member of the Vertebrate Ecology Lab team.


To apply, please send an email to Alison Stimpert ( with the subject line: "SanctSound MS position" that includes:

1) a brief description of your qualifications

2) 1 or 2 thesis project ideas related to the research effort listed above

3) your available start date.

Application Deadline: October 30.