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Dee Boersma featured in The New York Times on scientists watching their work disappear from climate change

Thursday, October 26, 2023 - 11:45

Biology Professor Dee Boersma was featured in an article in The New York Times Magazine as one of many scientists watching their life's work disappear as they witness the impact of climate change.

Excerpt from article:

Amid the chaos of climate change, humans tend to focus on humans. But Earth is home to countless other species, including animals, plants and fungi. For centuries, we have been making it harder for them to exist by cutting down forests, plowing grasslands, building roads, damming rivers, draining wetlands and polluting. Now that wildlife is depleted and hemmed in, climate change has come crashing down. In 2016, scientists in Australia announced the loss of a rodent called the Bramble Cay melomys, one of the first known species driven to global extinction by climate change. Others are all but certain to follow. How many depends on how much we let the planet heat.  

The seven scientists here document the impacts of global warming on the nonhuman world. Their work brings them face to face with realities that few of us see firsthand. Some are stubborn optimists. Some struggle with despair. To varying degrees, they all take comfort in nature’s resilience. But they know it goes only so far. These scientists are witnesses to an intricately connected world that we have pushed out of balance. Their faces show the weight they carry.

Dee Boersma

For 40 years, Boersma has studied a single colony of Magellanic penguins in Argentina’s coastal desert, documenting a decline of about 1 percent a year.

My study site is about halfway down the Argentine coast. When I first went there in 1982, I was overwhelmed with the number of penguins. It was just throbbing with penguins. It’s still throbbing with penguins, but it’s half of what it was.

Penguins nest in deserts because chicks don’t do well if they get wet. They haven’t grown any of their juvenile plumage, which is waterproof. We get more rain now than we did 40 years ago. After a rainstorm, you go to a nest, and both parents are away foraging for food. Often the chick is on its back with feet up in the air, totally wet. You can go from nest to nest, and they’re all dead.

Penguins die from heat strokes too. A couple of years ago, we had the hottest day we’ve ever recorded, 111 degrees in the shade. The best way for the penguins to get cool is to jump in the ocean, but some of them have to walk more than a kilometer to get there. We had 264 dead penguins just littered over the colony. Some were within five feet of the water, but they just couldn’t make it.

My view is that the penguins have a right to exist. I think we have too many people for the Earth’s resources. Overpopulation and overconsumption.

Read the full article in The New York Times Magazine.

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