Antarctic researcher commutes across continents for work

Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:46pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Pauline Askin

ON BOARD THE ASTROLABE, Southern Ocean Dec 14 (Reuters Life!) - Getting to and from work can be annoying if you hit traffic, but for Mireille Raccurt, it takes more than 10 days of flying and sailing through treacherous seas to get to her job.

Dr Raccurt is a researcher with France's government-funded National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) as well as a lecturer at the Universite Claude Bernard at Lyon.

She has been traveling to the French scientific station in Dumont D'Urville in east Antarctica for eight summers now to conduct research on the Adelie penguin, whose population has dropped by more than 65 percent over the past 25 years due to the reduction in sea ice and a scarcity of food.

"In France it's not possible to have Adelie penguins visit your office like it is in Antarctica," Raccurt told Reuters aboard The Astrolabe, a rolling, motion-sickness inducing icebreaker on the Southern Ocean.

"Adelie penguins are a unique model of metabolic adaptation."

Penguins, the emblematic residents of the South Pole, are endotherms or "warm blooded", which means they are able to keep their body temperature at a warm, constant 38 degrees Celsius (100.40F) despite low surrounding temperatures.

The CNRS program aims to investigate the adaptive mechanisms developed by Adelie penguins in the face of these cold temperatures throughout their life cycle.

December is the warmest month in Antarctica and when the penguin parents take turns incubating their egg until it hatches. The chick then needs to put on weight quickly to survive the rigors of later life.   Continued...

<p>Two Adelie penguins rest on the shores of Commonwealth Bay in Antarctica December 13, 2009. REUTERS/Pauline Askin</p>