Volunteer in Antarctica *Video*

While at the end of the world, I ran into tons of people who wanted to visit Antarctica. And tons of people who didn’t want to, or couldn’t, pay for it. There’s an answer: penguin counting.

Doug, one of the staff on my expedition ship, got his start working in Antarctica by volunteering. He was desperate to find any job (even an un-paying one) that would allow him to explore the White Continent. He even got a plush living arrangement aboard a National Geographic expedition ship. NatGeo donated the shared cabin for the duration of the volunteer assignment.

In the Name of Science

The volunteer gig, officially called “Antarctica Site Inventory,” is run by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Starting in 1994, the NSF’s Office of Polar Programs launched the study to test whether or not increased tourism from expedition ships were damaging Antarctica’s flora and fauna. The program was focused on the Antarctic Peninsula, which is the area most often visited.

The study created a baseline from which physical and biological variables could be tracked over time. In 17 seasons through February 2011, the inventory visited 1,156 sites, collecting data on 142 separate Antarctic Peninsula locations.

Here’s a sample of the type of data that is being collected:

  • Physical Characteristics: Distribution of flora, and discrete groups of breeding penguins and flying birds.
  • Environmental Conditions: Tracking of weather and other environmental conditions, including sea ice, cloud cover, snow cover, temperature, wind direction and speed.
  • Biological Conditions: Counting the number of occupied nests, number of chicks per occupied nest, ages of chicks.
  • Observed Visitor Impacts: Documenting footprints or paths, cigarette butts, film canisters, and litter.
  • Photo Documentation: Mapping the major features of each site, particularly the locations of colonies and assemblages of resident fauna and flora.

Noisy Nesting Chinstraps

Before you jump on the next ship south, check out this clip of some chinstrap penguins, and their noisy nesting rituals. If you can stand (or rather sit) through all this malarkey for hours on end in the snow and ice with a clicker in your hand, perhaps this volunteer stint is for you!

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Noisy Penguin Video

Funding for Flora & Fauna

The Antarctica Site Inventory is now funded by both public support and private foundations. Many of the signers of the Antarctic Treaty governments also provide grants, including the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the German Federal Environment Agency.

Care to support the Antarctic environment? You can make a donation to www.Oceanites.org. Oceanites is a U.S. tax-exempt nonprofit organization, so you will receive the charitable tax deduction benefits.

Interested in reading more global nonprofits that work to help save our wildlife? Check out:

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 and is filed under Hot Orgs.

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