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Penguin Preferences
Tracking Adelie Penguins with Radio Telemetry

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70,000 Adelie penguins arrive at Cape Bird on Ross Island Antarctica in November of each year. In 3 short months, they must attract a mate, build a nest, incubate their eggs, feed their chicks and raise them. All this must be completed by early February before the return of the cruel Antarctic winter. After incubating the eggs for about 22 days, the parents struggle to keep the growing chicks fed. To obtain food, parent penguins take turns going to sea on feeding trips for 1 to 5 days at a time. Your job is to determine where it is they go and why.

Radio telemetry is the technique our research team used to track Adelie penguins while feeding in the Ross Sea.(tea.rice.edu/wille/1.6.2000) When penguins are tracked using this method, a small radio transmitter is carefully taped to the feathers on the lower back of the bird. This transmitter is about 4 cm long and has an antenna that extends another 15 cm to the penguin?s tail. Each transmitter is set to its own special frequency so that by tuning our receiver to that frequency, we can locate an individual bird. This is much like tuning into your favorite radio station. To obtain the three data points needed for triangulation, our team had people at three separate stations. At the same time each day, we tracked each penguin to its feeding ground. In this activity, you will use the raw telemetry data obtained by the research team, to determine the location of Adelie penguin feeding areas.

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