Dee Boersma, penguin researcher extraordinaire

by | Dec 8, 2021

Dee Boersma—a biologist and professor at the University of Washington who’s been studying penguins for decades, including Galapagos penguins for 50 years; in a piece some years ago examining her research and extensive field work, The New York Times dubbed her “The Jane Goodall of Penguins”—recalls her first foray to the Galapagos Islands 50-plus years, driven initially by an interest in the Islands themselves, but quickly developed an interest in the penguins there. That interest was spurred by many factors, including that these were penguins living on the Equator—a far cry from the stereotypical image of the birds occupying cold, icy locales—and, Boersma explains, she found them amusing, and was particularly struck by their unhesitating curiosity. She’s pretty well matched that curiosity, returning to the Galapagos year after year, charting changes in the penguins’ population and environmental factors that could affect that population, like the ongoing oil pollution in the sea, increased rainfall, and notable temperature increases that, in recent yeaers, sometimes have risen as high as 44 degrees Celsius. At one point, Boersma provides an overview of the 17 penguin species and their distinguishing traits. She also spends a few minutes explaining yet another long-term study she and colleagues have conducted: examining the serial monogamy of Magellanic penguins, who when things aren’t working out with their mates—notably, in the realm of reproductive success—will “divorce” that mate and find a new one. This study helps explore and understand the population dynamics of these penguins, and reflects how they’re prompted to adjust their behavior as a result of the ways climate change has brought modifications to their environment.  (,,

ALSO: I spoke briefly with Heydi Acuna, founder and president of Mercy Full Project, (MFP) a Tampa-based multifaceted organization chiefly concerned with animal rescue and finding foster and forever homes for an array of cats and dogs who’ve often emerged from difficult circumstances—including behavioral and medical challenges. Mercy Full Project will be holding an adoption event this Saturday, Dec. 11, from noon to 4 p.m., at Chakra Zulu Crystals (4907 N. Florida Ave., in Tampa), and Acuna urged prospective adopters to visit the MFP website and complete an application; you can also see the animals available for fostering or adopting on their website. (,

COMEDY CORNER: Kellen Erskine’s “Penguins” (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals


NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: The Beatles’ “Dig A Pony”


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