What is Episode 120 all about?
Situated under the Antarctic circle in the vast Southern Ocean, Antarctica is the windiest, coldest, and driest continent in the world. Categorized as a polar desert, Antarctica receives less than 6 in of precipitation per year, and temperatures can reach as low as −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F)!
With these statistics in mind, I’m sure you’re wondering: How do we study wildlife that lives in some of the harshest conditions on the planet? How do we ensure that we obtain the proper amount of knowledge about Emperor penguins, Adélie penguins, and Weddell seals so that we can make informed conservation decisions? By using satellite imagery! Wait, we can study Antarctica’s wildlife from space? How? That, dear listener, is the topic of today’s discussion with the lead scientist who figured it out.
In this episode, I am sitting down with Michelle LaRue, PhD, Spatial Ecologist and Associate Professor of Antarctic Marine Science at the University of Canterbury. Michelle cut her teeth in wildlife research analyzing bat guano to understand hoary bat feeding habits and then leaped at the opportunity to study cougar dispersal viability in the Midwestern United States during her Master’s. Never one to miss an incredible opportunity, Michelle became a GIS lead for the Polar Geospatial Center, and realized while mapping Antarctica that the tiny black dots on the ice in the satellite images were penguins! This discovery eventually led to her PhD, and a lifelong pursuit of using satellite imagery to study Emperor penguins, Adélie penguins, and Weddell seals colonies.
Michelle and I discuss what inspired her to pursue a career in wildlife conservation as a young girl, and then spend a good amount of time exploring possible cougar habitat in the Midwestern United States. We then head south and chat about penguins and seals, the power of high-resolution satellite imagery for monitoring inaccessible Antarctic wildlife colonies, how conservation decisions are made in Antarctica, the top threats penguins and seals are facing in the Southern Ocean, and what we all can do to help conserve our seventh continent.
Alright, everyone. Please enjoy this conversation with Michelle.
Listen to this episode.
Watch this episode on YouTube.
Michelle in the Field
Links & Resources
Resources Mentioned in the Show
- The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CAMLR)
- DigitalGlobe Foundation
- The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR)
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