PENGUIN COUNTERS AT COP21
Penguins around the world were humbled, honored and filled with hope for the future, when THE PENGUIN COUNTERS was selected as one of a handful of environmental documentaries to be screened at the COP 21 Climate Change Conference in Paris earlier this month. Way to go, Adelies, Chinstraps and Gentoos! May they multiply exponentially in the coming years...
PENGUINS AROUND THE WORLD
East coast to west coast, from Mexico to Russia, Great Britain to Mongolia, THE PENGUIN COUNTERS is taking over the world!
Check out the laurels we've gathered so far, including the Grand Jury Award from the Mexico International Film Festival and the Audience Choice Award from the Esperanza International Film Festival!
PENGUINS IN LONDON
PENGUIN COUNTERS are having a field day in London! Don’t miss us on Tuesday 30th of June at the Whirled Cinema in Brixton, starting at 19.30.
'HUFFINGTON POST LIVE’ and ABC TALK PENGUINS
We are pleased to have found a special place in the famed and revered NERDS FORUM on HUFFINGTON POST LIVE where Ron Naveen along with Andrea Kavanagh of The Pew Charitable Trusts, talked about the
mathematics of penguins, the personalities of Gentoos, rapid climate change in the Antarctic, and the hugely critical subject of krill. The consumption of krill on a commercial scale is quite literally robbing penguins of their supper. Watch here
To jolt the viewers of ABC morning television awake is Peter, talking about the humongous slog of trying to make a film on Deception Island when 2.5 out of 4 cameras may go down at any time - Watch here
We hope to see you at the screening of The Penguin Counters at the DC Environmental Film Festival this Saturday, March 21st at 4 PM. Registration is encouraged, please go to: go.si.edu/eff2015
PENGUIN COUNTERS TO HAVE THEIR DC PREMIERE AT THE ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL
We are excited to announce that THE PENGUIN COUNTERS is having its first public screening in Washington DC at the Smithsonian, as part of the nation's largest environmental film festival! Please come join us on Saturday, March 21st at 4:00 pm at the Museum of Natural History. This is a great day out for everyone from 9 to 90! Admission is free but please register here: go.si.edu/eff2015
The film will be introduced by Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Museum of Natural History. After the movie there will be a lively discussion with filmmakers Peter Getzels and Harriet Gordon, Ron Naveen of Oceanites, and Andrea Kavanagh, the Director of Global Penguin Conservation Campaign for The Pew Charitable Trusts.
We look forward to seeing you!
THANK YOU FOR BEING COUNTED IN!
We have been thankful, humbled and consumedly inspired in the course of this Kickstarter campaign to see how many of you have put your support behind Ron's work and our film. Every one of you are awesome! We are highly motivated and ready to go. We will stay in touch with our updates and rewards; and our contact information is on this site if you want to get in touch with us.
For anyone who would like to donate to the Penguin Counters Movie after Kickstarter has ended, please click the 'Donate' page on this website.
WHERE PENGUIN COUNTERS GO TO DREAM
With extraordinary thanks to each of you who have made donations and shared our links, our penguin network has sprung to life! You are now part of a unique, new community brought together by Ron and his penguin counters; and by joining us, you are on the front line of messages about the environment, transmitted via penguins to the world. Yes, we want to inspire a whole new generation of young scientists! With 42 hours to go, please continue to share our links.
Should these young scientists find themselves in the Antarctic, they would be treading on a visionary concept – a continent that is legally owned by no one and solely dedicated to the pursuit of science, peace and environmental conservation, overseen by the 50 member nations of the Antarctic Treaty System. But how would this glorious and deadly continent visited by scientists, tourists and explorers be managed?
Ron got involved in the early nineties when member nations expressed a need to have site-specific baselines that could be used to evaluate the cause of any future changes on physical, geological and biological features in this unique and sensitive environment. Responding to this need, Ron came up with a plan: Having been an expedition leader in the Peninsula area, he knew which sites to visit, which ones were the most diverse in species composition, and which ones had particular biological or geographical features. With Oceanites already in existence, he secured funding in 1993 from the US Marine Mammal Commission to develop a plan of work for such a database. One year later with funding from the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs, the Antarctic Site Inventory was born.
From the start, penguin colonies were ideal for this study. With accessible nesting areas and population sites that could potentially be monitored from season to season, penguins offered the best clues on environmental changes. Unlike any other research project in the Antarctic, the ASI has complete mobility, without ties to the permanent research stations.
Yet Ron and the penguin counters work in just a small corner of this astonishing and fragile continent, which spans the size of the US and Mexico combined; and contains 90% of the world's ice and 70% of the world's fresh water.
'It's so quiet here,' says Ron, 'that all you hear are the penguins and your heartbeats thumping through your parka. It's a place to study, a place to think, and of course, a place to dream.'
Now these dreams include you. Thank you for letting us do this work.
WHERE STATISTICAL ECOLOGY AND PENGUIN COUNTING MEET
There is one more piece of the penguin counting puzzle we want to share. Her name is Heather Lynch and she's one of the reasons we need to reach our goal – so we can film her lab where she works with satellite imagery and futurist modelling. A Statistical Ecologist and Chief Scientist for the Antarctic Site Inventory, Dr. Lynch develops new statistical methods for modelling the ecological data gathered by the penguin counters. Heather met Ron in 2006 while trying to decide on a post doc with Bill Fagan from the University of Maryland, and they've been a team ever since.
"My PhD work on opportunistic datasets fit perfectly with this massive time series of penguin abundance," Heather told us, "and before long I was sitting at a restaurant in Cambridge Mass, planning my inaugural trip to the Antarctic over Thai food with Ron." At first, the job of organising the massive amount of data seemed impossible. "A lot of knowledge was still in the heads of these fabulous penguin counting teams," Heather said. "Maps were hand-drawn and the database was a haphazard collection built up by researchers and field biologists over many years. Now, seven years later, we have the best database of Antarctic Peninsula penguin numbers and distribution anywhere. The database is cleaned-up and fully searchable, maps have been digitised, and statistical models for understanding the data have been painstakingly developed."
Dr Lynch is also integrating high-resolution satellite imagery into the penguin counters work, which allows them to streamline logistics and track populations that are inaccessible from the field. Going forward, ASI plan to ground-survey several very remote colonies that are known to them only from satellite imagery, and continue to monitor the core set of ASI sites so that a new generation of more sophisticated models for the region can be developed.
A COVE IN ANTARCTICA IS NAMED FOR RON NAVEEN
Lest penguinmania overtake anyone, here is the real story behind the penguin counters and why an entire bay in the Antarctic was designated Naveen Cove by the US Board of Geographic Names in 2011.
From the time he left his job as a government lawyer 30 years ago and let his passion for birds take him as far south as he could go, Ron nurtured a vision for a science and educational foundation which eventually became Oceanites. Through Oceanites he single-handedly created the Antarctic Site Inventory (ASI) which went on to produce the most comprehensive database ever assembled in the Antarctic Peninsula. Ron knew from the start that everywhere in the world including Antarctica, monitoring and assessment are the lynchpins of long-term environmental conservation. Critical to our planet is the fact that baselines must be kept in place, so that environmental changes can be detected and analyzed. Any break in the chain of monitoring raises questions about the entire sequence of data. Hence it's vital that Oceanites continue their ongoing work.
Learning from penguins and their population changes is also critical. The divergent responses of these little flightless birds in the warming Antarctic Peninsula send signals about adaptability that need to be understood. Gentoo penguins are increasing their numbers and expanding their range, while Adélie and Chinstrap populations are declining. Examining 'why' helps us understand how flexibility in the face of climate change is key.
The ASI also continues to pioneer the use of remote-sensing technology for their work, in particular satellite photos. Last year, they completed a seminal analysis of penguin populations in the South Sandwich Islands, as well as an analysis of Chinstrap penguin declines at Deception Island and throughout the western Antarctic Peninsula — both of which relied heavily on such imagery. Their forthcoming paper on Adélie penguin population changes in the southern end of the Peninsula, particularly in Marguerite Bay, also relies heavily on such remote-sensing analyses.
The strength of ASI's methodology is their ability to 'ground-truth' these analyses. Every season, their penguin-counting teams work via expedition ships, yachts, and government vessels. Building on previous successes, the project's data gathering and analytical reach is soon expected to expand north to the South Orkney Islands and Elephant Island; and north and east to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia; and to cover all of Antarctica. Indeed, the data has reached a critical mass. Scientists, researchers, all 50 member nations of the Antarctic Treaty System, expedition companies, explorers and visitors rely substantially on the data Oceanites and the Antarctic Site Inventory have collected, as well as the scientific papers and analyses Oceanites and its researchers have published. So it's no surprise that Naveen Cove now exists.
Over the years, funding for the work of Oceanites/ASI has been provided by the US National Science Foundation, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Marine Mammal Commission, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, German Environment Ministry (Umweltbundesamt), Antarctica New Zealand, The Tinker Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, The Jeniam Foundation and the generosity of individuals from the general public.
Listen to the birds! Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo ringtones are part of our Kickstarter rewards for donors. Oceanites Site Guide to the Antarctic Peninsula is also available to donors.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A PENGUIN COUNTER? We put the question to Ron Naveen . . .
I get asked all the time: "Can I volunteer?" "What do I need to know to be a good penguin counter?" "How hard is counting?"
Well, it requires a lot of concentration, patience and a whole lot of training. To keep the margin of error down, our research protocol requires three counts of each penguin group within 3-5% of one another. With smaller groups of 10 to 50 nests or chicks, that goal is not too difficult to achieve. But when you get huge colonies with many hundreds of nests and chicks, that 3-5% target is a challenge. And requires oodles of practice.
To avoid double counting and keep track of what's been counted and what's not, you have to find one singular vantage point from which you do all the counting; or you have to walk the same line right to left or left to right, while holding your free hand or field-book in front of you.
And of course you need to know what is being counted! In the nest phase, the three penguin species we monitor all construct stone nests, some more elaborate than others. But there are always "fakers" sitting tight in their nests, looking like they have eggs, when they really have nothing!
And of course, we don't count in our heads. We use these little hand-held tally whackers, clicking the plunger for each nest or chick.
All the time, we're aiming for complete, site-wide counts and even if we're good and efficient, it sometimes takes a very long time to get an entire site counted. At a place like Petermann Island, which is about a mile long and a half-a-mile wide, it will take two of our best counters at least 4-6 hours in decent weather to count the entire island which has about 2,400 gentoo penguin nests and 450 Adélie penguin nests. The huge Baily Head chinstrap penguin colony at Deception Island had more than 50,000 nests and took us two days to count.
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