Position: Student, Field: Animal behaviour and conservation, Organisation: University of Waikato.
With Antarctica becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, people are asking how the presence of humans affects this isolated and pristine ecosystem. Calum, with his supervisor Professor Joe Waas, asked this question, with a specific interest in how humans were affecting penguins.
To do this, he spent eight weeks living in a tent out on the ice (that’s eight weeks without a shower!) observing penguin behaviour and collecting blood samples from the animals. From this, he is able to analyse the behaviour of penguins when they come into contact with humans, as well as measure stress levels physiologically.
His research has important implications for eco-tourism. If penguins show significant stress levels caused by human presence, recommendations can be made to minimise contact. Calum thinks Antarctica should be kept as pristine and untouched as possible, highlighting it as an important resource for scientists. He does think some eco-tourism is good because it helps to teach people about Antarctica and its animals, but he doesn’t want to see it spoiled and thinks that mass tourism would be bad.
When asked about his time in Antarctica he describes it as “an awesome experience [and that] he’d definitely go back”. The best part was seeing all the different types of wildlife but the worst would have been the toilet facilities. He believes his time in Antarctica was great, both as a learning experience but also because he got to work with a great team of people, so had fun socially.
This article is based on information current in 2007.