UW Department of Biology Receives Disney Conservation Grant to Increase Galapagos Penguin Population 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Megan Gilshire
Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications
UW College of Arts & Sciences
(206) 616-8955
gilshire@uw.edu                                                              


Seattle — The University of Washington Department of Biology has been awarded a $24,950 grant from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF). The conservation grant recognizes the University’s efforts to increase the Galapagos penguin population.

“We are thrilled to have support from Disney,” said Dr. P. Dee Boersma, UW professor of biology and Wadsworth Endowed Chair in Conservation Science. “Many species of penguin are endangered including the Galapagos penguins. Living only in the Galapagos Islands there may be as few as 1,800 individuals. Disney support will allow us to see if we can increase the population by building them shady nests to breed.”

Working with Parque Nacional Galápagos and conservationist Godfrey Merlen, Dr. Boersma is behind the effort to build nests in the barren rocks of the Galápagos Islands in the hope of increasing the population of the endangered species.

Despite their high reproductive rates, Galapagos penguins have been in severe decline due to the increased intensity and frequency of El Niño events (warm water, low ocean productivity) as well as predation from introduced mammals. The recovery of this endangered species has been hampered by a lack of high-quality nest sites. 

In 2010, Dr. Boersma’s team built 120 "condominiums" for the penguins. The trio created holes just large enough to serve as nests along the volcanic shoreline of three islands in the Galápagos and several smaller islets.

"Our whole goal is to increase the population of Galápagos penguins, and the way to do that is to make sure that when conditions are good, when they're not food challenged, that all of them will be able to breed," explains Boersma.
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The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund works to protect species and habitats, and connect kids to nature to help develop lifelong conservation values. Since its founding in 1995, DWCF has supported more than 1,000 conservation programs in 112 countries.

For information on Disney’s commitment to conserve nature visit www.disney.com/conservation, and for more information about the Penguin Project, visit http://mesh.biology.washington.edu/penguinProject/.

 

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