Sunday, April 15, 2012

Happy Feet! Scientists Count Penguins...from Space!

Scientists conducted a census on penguins in Antarctica using an out-of-this-world method...satellite imagery!

In what The National Geographic is calling "The First Ever Penguin Census from Space", scientists from the UK, US and Australia were able to use high-resolution satellite imagery to count the population of Emperor penguins on the frozen continent. After poring over the data, the scientists were able to count approximately 600,000 of the tuxedo wearing cuties, which was double the number they were expecting to find.

"We are delighted," says a member of the British Antarctic Survey, which was able to spot seven new penguin colonies using the imagery from space. Part of the census technique relies on locating individual colonies, which is done by looking for large brown patches of guano (penguin poo) on the surface of the white ice. Then the high-resolution imagery is utilized to count the approximate number of penguins present.

While the higher-than-expected population is good news, the scientists are still concerned for the future of the species, as the effects of runaway climate change continue to place their fragile habitat in great danger.

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