Earth from space

On Dutch television, they show the four-part series Earth from Space, where they show footage made by satellites, drones, and from the ground from the same area. It’s surprising to see what is visible from space and how that can help by finding things on the ground. An excellent example of this is Emperor Penguins.


The Emperor Penguin colony at Snow Hill as seen from the sky

Emperor Penguins breed in colonies in very inhospitable and inaccessible places around Antarctica. Many of these places are rarely visited by humans (if at all). This means that for long, it was impossible to give an accurate estimate of the world population of this species. Bring in satellite imagery.

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Emperor Penguins seen from a helicopter

With this, we can from the comfort of a warm office, look at the most remote places and see if we can find new Emperor Penguin colonies. Over the past couple of years, 15 new colonies have been found (one with a estimated population size of over 12.000 breeding pairs) and have increased the total number of Emperor Penguin colonies known to us to 54.

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Emperor Penguins seen from the ground

Emperor Penguins can be easily found from space as their guano colours the white sea ice brown, which can easily be seen from space. It just needs hi-res satellite images and a lot of time to scan the edges of a whole continent for relatively small brown spots. For better population sizes, more accurate counts made from a plane or from the ground are needed of course.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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