Penguins are marine sentinels that can teach us about the health of marine and coastal ecosystems. Through research, conservation, and education the Penguin Sentinels works to understand what penguins are telling us, protect their environment, and inspire others to take action in preserving our natural world.


Researchers, graduate and undergraduate students conduct research on the Magellanic penguins of Punta Tombo, Argentina and the Galápagos penguins of the Galápagos Islands. We have also worked with the penguins of New Zealand, Antarctica, Chile, Peru, and the Falklands. Click here to learn more about our ongoing research projects or visit “Research.”


octtombo 041_wm
2010 field crew. Punta Tombo, Argentina



We need more than research and publications to protect penguins and conserve our environment. The Penguin Sentinels have worked with governments and conservation groups such as The Global Penguin Society (GPS), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Galápagos Conservancy, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to promote positive environmental change. After determining that tanker vessels were dumping oil and negatively impacting Magellanic penguins, Dr. Boersma, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and many Argentines worked with the government of Argentina to move tanker lanes 40km further offshore. In 2010 Dr. Boersma and Godfrey Merlen painstakingly dug nests into the lava of the Galápagos Islands in the hopes of increasing their reproductive success. In 2014, after 30 years of study, we successfully linked climate change to reproductive failure in Magellanic penguins. This widely publicized finding enhanced our understanding of the consequences of our actions. Dr. Boersma, GPS, and WCS are working with the Argentine and Ecuadorian governments to promote the creation and expansion of marine protected areas in Argentina and Ecuador. Her dedication and hard work led the Nature Conservancy to name Dr. Boersma one of their “Conservation heroes of the last 50 years.”




As a professor of Biology at the University of Washington, Dr. Boersma has educated future conservationists for over 40 years. In Boersma’s Science Communication course, students produce short, educational films using video footage recorded during field research. Many of the films are shared with the public on our YouTube channel. Click here to see a selection of these videos. Dr. Boersma launched the iGalápagos project to involve the public in research of endangered Galápagos penguins through photograph-sharing and education. At Punta Tombo, students work in the visitor center and public areas to answer visitor questions. Speaking locally, as well as internationally, researchers with the project use media platforms to communicate the importance of research and conservation. Our graduate and undergraduate students visit local schools, zoos, aquariums, and public events to educate and inspire future conservationists. People that share our love of penguins and the natural world can help us get the message out that penguins enrich our lives and need our help.

Penguin Sentinels Project volunteer, Courtney Wenneborg, working with youth at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center. Photo by Jeff Smith.