Congratulations to Andrea for taking the Grand Award at the Great Kansas City Science and Engineering Fair last week for her project, “The effect of geographic distance on the variation in vocalizations of the gentoo penguin Pygoscelis papua, on the Antarctic Peninsula”! This big win means she advances to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May, held in Pittsburgh, PA.
Andrea analyzed recordings of penguin vocalizations from across the Antarctic Peninsula to look at regional differences in vocalization. This required her to isolate calls from individual birds, measure the frequency, duration, and power of each syllable in these calls, and analyze this data using R, a popular statistical analysis tool. Her analysis showed differences in vocal behavior across three major regions along the Antarctic Peninsula and that greater distance between colonies = greater differentiation in vocalization.
This project spawned from the Penguin CALLS program, an educational curriculum developed by Maureen Lynch in collaboration with educations at the Kansas City Zoo. This program aims to teach middle and high school students about the Antarctic environment, penguin ecology and behavior, and what it’s like to be an Antarctic researcher. Maureen provided guidance and data resources to students to help them develop their own projects. Students had the opportunity to learn how the data was collected in the field, what kinds of questions scientists might want to answer using this data, and how this research fits into the larger picture.