Dee Boersma holds the Wadsworth Endowed Chair in Conservation Science at the University of Washington. In addition, she is director of the Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels and co-chairs the Penguin Specialist Group at the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Dubbed the “Jane Goodall of penguins” by The New York Times, Boersma considers penguins to be marine sentinels, sounding the alarm on environmental threats to ocean ecosystems. Boersma was the recipient of a 2009 Heinz Family Foundation award for achievements leading toward a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable world; a recipient of a 2010 Fulbright fellowship to study wildlife videography in New Zealand; and was recently named one of the Nature Conservancy’s “conservation heroes of the last 50 years.” She co-edited the book Penguins: Natural History and Conservation, which was a University of Washington Press best seller in 2013. Boersma used her Pew fellowship to research the foraging areas of South American penguins and to help develop marine reserves and zoning arrangements to protect penguins and declining fish stocks. She used satellite tags to track four colonies of Magellanic penguins in Argentina and the Falkland Islands to better identify their feeding areas during the critical times of egg incubation and chick rearing. She found that these birds often travel 400 to 500 kilometers from their nesting sites to find food. Boersma’s efforts greatly expanded knowledge about penguin foraging areas in the South Atlantic. She found that the foraging areas of penguins extended into oil and gas drilling and shipping areas. In addition, she found that penguin mortality was often due to oiling of their feathers by petroleum products in the water. The public outcry that greeted her findings prompted Exxon and the government of the Falklands to contribute funds for expanded tagging studies to ensure protection of the species. The publicity also helped to ban fishing during penguin breeding season near Punta Tombo, Argentina, and to move shipping lanes to avoid harming the penguins. Based on the scientific data collected by Boersma and the political work of Pablo García Borboroglu, president of the Global Penguin Society, 3.1 million hectares of land and sea surrounding the Punta Tombo Magellanic penguin colony were designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. As part of her fellowship, Boersma founded Conservation—an award-winning magazine dedicated to conservation science—and served as its executive editor from 2000 to 2015. She also co-authored a paper with Julia Parrish entitled “Limiting Abuse: Marine Protected Areas, a Limited Solution,” which was published in Ecological Economics. She simultaneously contributed to a national study of U.S. endangered species recovery plans and taught students in Argentina and the Falklands about ecology to help build a local conservation base for penguins and other regional wildlife.
To learn more about Boersma, visit her bio online: http://www.biology.washington.edu/users/p-dee-boersma.