Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Wonders of Penguin Poo

Yesterday evening I left Lake Fryxell and flew to Cape Royds, one of the penguin rookeries on Ross Island.

While I am here, I will be measuring respiration from soil covered with penguin poo! When most soil organisms respire, they produce carbon dioxide (abbreviated CO2). Humans do this when we breath, too. By measuring the amount of CO2 coming out of the soil, we are measuring how much the soil organisms are respiring. Since penguin poo has a lot of nitrogen and phosphorus, I expect much more CO2 to be respired from these soils than the dry valleys. (Just think about what you would do... if someone gave you a lot of yummy things to eat, you'd run around and be more active, and therefore respire more. The same thing happens for soil organisms!)

Here's a measurement being taken at the rookery. All the light-colored pink and tan stuff... that's penguin poo! The small machine down by the lake edge is what measures CO2 coming out of the soil.

The penguins are very funny to be around. Many of them are very curious... just as curious as we are about them! Here's Adrian, who volunteered to help me with my measurements today. Who's studying who?