Penguin talk

Community CorrespondentDecember 31, 2013 

Three years ago Kristen Boysen, now the Sierra Foothill Conservancy's conservation project manager in Mariposa, was in a far different place from the Sierra foothills. She was studying penguins in Antarctica.

A 2010 graduate of Pomona College in Southern California, where as a senior she did field research on murrelets on offshore islands, Boysen traveled in October 2010 to King George Island in Antarctica, where she spent six months at Copacabana Field Station as part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) penguin research team.

Shortly after her arrival, Boysen posted on her blog, "The penguins are just starting to lay eggs, so we go out every day to look at our sites to see if any of our penguins have laid. I have come to adopt the penguins' techniques for standing still in the Antarctic weather. Fuzzy inner layer, waterproof outer layer, slightly hunched posture, Zen with my surroundings.

On Thursday, Jan 9, Boysen will share her Antarctica experiences with a slide presentation — "My Life with Penguins at the Bottom of the World" — at 7 p.m. at the Yosemite Area Audubon Society's monthly program at the Oakhurst Methodist Church on Crane Valley Road (426).

Boysen replied, "Penguins are great at staying warm — they have very dense and thick waterproof feathers. When they swim, these feathers trap air bubbles to help the penguins stay warm in the water. It is important for the birds to keep their feathers in good shape, so they spend a lot of time preening and grooming themselves with their beak."

"The penguins seem to love the cold weather, whereas I am always bundled up in a lot of clothes. Because penguins are so good at staying warm, they can live in Antarctica where a lot of other species couldn't survive. Antarctica is a great habitat for the penguins — they have fewer predators to worry about and they are close to the cold Southern ocean, where there is a ton of krill for them to eat. Penguins live all over the Southern hemisphere, though. You can find them in Australia and New Zealand, Chile and Argentina, and even South Africa."

Boysen will answer these questions, and many more, in her presentation.

Like all YAAS programs, Boysen's presentation is open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support the chapter's local activities are appreciated.

Birding trip Jan. 18

The society will offer its monthly birding trip Saturday, Jan. 18, to the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. Participants will meet at 8 a.m. at the Mariposa rest area adjacent to the Mariposa Museum and History Center just off Highway 140. Suitable for beginners, the trip is free and the public is welcome. Dress in layers and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars, field guides, snacks, lunch, beverages and rain gear.

The mission of the National Audubon Society, the namesake of noted 19th-century naturalist and bird painter John James Audubon, is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity. The society is dedicated to educating and inspiring others to help protect those resources. Details: (209) 742-5579, (209) 966-2547, for additional information about either the program or the birding trip.

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